In an incredibly unfortunate example of timing John Key announced yesterday that the report on Gerry Brownlee’s Airport Security difficulties would be announced today. It is bad timing because the news will be drowned out by other news of another significant event that occurs today and during a week when Parliament is not sitting. It is as if the Government wants to minimise media treatment of the issue.
Key confirmed the report would be released and that he knew of its contents.
The result which was announced this morning is puzzling. Brownlee has been fined $2,000 and his staff issued warning letters. But the CAA report is being withheld despite Key’s assertion and a previous comment by the CAA that it would be published. This is disappointing because there is an issue about what he said to the staff member who let him through the security door.
Brownlee remains Minister of Defence, in charge of the Canterbury Rebuild and in charge of the EQC. Apart from being slightly poorer and somewhat embarrassed he has not suffered from this event.
But the public has a legitimate expectation of understanding what happened. Public scrutiny of our elected representatives is important. In the absence of publication of the report we can only guess what happened.
Jono Nautsch has suggested that Brownlee may have been hard done by in that the offence that he was charged with contained a defence if Brownlee entered the area with a boarding pass and with the intent of catching a flight and he may be right. On the face of it Brownlee has a defence to the offence that he has been charged with.
On the other hand if he was told by a CAA Official to leave the area then he may have committed an offence against section 54 of the Civil Aviation Act 1990. The penalties for this offence include theoretically a jail sentence.
This is why publication of the report is so important, so that the public can know what happened and be assured that the law has been applied fairly and fearlessly.
I cannot think of any security reason for the report not being published. It would only describe areas visible to people embarking or leaving aircraft.
I posted earlier suggesting that Labour should ignore the issue and concentrate on other issues such as climate change and child poverty. At the time in the middle of an election campaign I thought that the focus should go onto significant issues. For now though interests of transparency require full disclosure of the CAA report.
Phil Twyford has called for the release of the report. In a statement quoted in the Stuff article he said:
Mr Brownlee made a tonne of excuses at the time, most of them hard to believe. The only way the truth will come out is if the report is released. Either Gerry Brownlee should publically ask CAA to release it or the new Minister of Transport should order the Authority to do so.”