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Govt exploiting CHCH to sneak through abuses?

Written By: - Date published: 7:03 am, September 8th, 2010 - 10 comments
Categories: accountability, history, Media, spin, uk politics - Tags: , , , ,

As our msm persist with their increasingly banal fixation on Christchurch’s troubles, I’m reminded of a story that appeared in 2001 not long after the horror of 9/11. It was about a political advisor in the Blair administration who was caught-out doing her job.

On the day of the attacks Jo Moore sent an email to staff advising it was “a very good day to get out anything we want to bury”. Moore’s advice, while thoroughly tasteless, was indeed good PR advice – her mistake was to distribute the advisory as an email. Other than that, it’s a sound and often used technique to release unpalatable or potentially damaging information to the media whenever they’re snowed in with a news-heavy day, just before Christmas, or better yet – when the media are fixated on something they consider so irresistibly newsworthy that it displaces coverage of everything else.

Now I’m sure our principled NACT leaders wouldn’t exploit the suffering of the people of Canterbury for such cynical PR purposes. But I do wonder just what’s being snuck under the radar while our gullible media remain entranced with human interest stories from Quakefest2010.

In particular, I’m more than a little concerned about the major abuses of Standing Orders that are currently occurring with the Select Committee for the State Sector Management Bill – that’s the one that aims to, among other things, merge the National Archive in to Internal Affairs and replace a perfectly good Govt IT platform with a new INCIS II “Superplatform”. Grant Robertson estimates this will save a mere $150,000 net per annum, at the cost of 15 more jobs; if you fire that many people for that little saving, it means the new system will actually cost more to run than the perfectly good one it’s replacing.

Sound a bit dodgey? Well to help make sure this mad plan gets through, NACT have made a few ‘adjustments’ to the usual democratic process for a bill, including: truncating the consultation period, reassigning the Bill to an inappropriate committee – Education and Science (wft!?), and allowing the Committee to proceed while the House is sitting. Here’s the video of Tony Ryall introducing the First Reading and acknowledging the Standing Orders these arrangements breach. This is a major omnibus bill that will affect a lot of fundamental democratic structures, that must be considered widely and carefully, yet our valiant msm watchdogs are all looking the other way.

It may well be that NACT are committing this abuse quite coincidentally, but I can’t help but wonder how convenient the timing is. I also wonder if this need to break so many Standing Orders to grease the Bill means NACT’s rationale for it is shaky too. I understand all OIA requests in to the justification for this Bill have been refused – not something that happens when the facts stack up.

Somehow I just get the feeling there’s going to be a lot of shit hitting the fan with this one.

10 comments on “Govt exploiting CHCH to sneak through abuses? ”

  1. I also wondered about Foreshore and Seabed 2.

    I understand that Turia and Sharples are overseas. It seems a strange time to introduce the bill if its pasage is the cornerstone of their coalition agreement.

    • Tigger 1.1

      Given that it doesn’t actually deliver meaningfully on what the MP promised I wondered if it was planned to be introduced while they were absent. Earthquake was just a horrible coincidence.

  2. Craig Glen Eden 2

    I watched the debate yesterday and have to admit it seems strange that National and Act seem very happy to use anti democratic processes to get this through given they argue that the changes they are making are so positive and will save the NZ tax payer millions. What do they have to fear?

  3. Julienne Molineaux 4

    Thanks for giving this issue some coverage.

    The timing is purely coincidental – the State Sector Management Bill was introduced into Parliament two weeks ago but only had its first reading yesterday because (firstly) the House was in urgency, and then it was in recess.

    But while the timing is coincidental, it is also very unfortunate. It is hard enough to get media coverage of low-profile constitutional change in the quietest of times; it will be nearly impossible with so many journalistic resources covering the earthquake. This is inopportune because, as you point out, this bill makes a radical change to a fundamental structure of our democracy, and the process for consultation has been curbed by the decisions made around the select committee process.

  4. Rex Widerstrom 5

    It’s simple. Standing Orders are presently a guide to the way the House runs its business.

    They need to become the rules that must be followed. No exceptions.

    And while they’re at it, amend them so every Private Members Bill automatically gets through the First Reading, so that other MPs and members of the public can have their say on what our elected representatives are trying to do to/for us. After all, that’s why we put them there.

    But neither major party, nor any minor party as a condition of its support for a major party, has ever insisted on Parliamentary reform.

    Why? Because when it comes their turn, they are as willing to pervert the democratic process as are their opponents.

  5. The public should be very concerned about the SSM Bill’s impact on Archives New Zealand.
    The independence of the Chief Archivist is a democratic safeguard for the organisation that is responsible for holding the records of government evidencing citizen’s rights and entitlements . The placement of the Chief Archivist as a third-tier manager in Internal Affair’s management structure, will mean that the Chief Archivist is likely to have two bureaucrats in a position to influence the Chief Archivist’s execution of his or her duties. How, for example, can the Chief Archivist seriously hold his or her superiors responsible for compliance with the Public Records Act, when those superiors are responsible for conducting the performance assessment of the Chief Archivist? As recently as the late 1990s, when Archives was last in Internal Affairs, the then Chief Archivist had a myriad of problems dealing with senior bureaucrats in Internal Affairs, leading to two stakeholder groups taking legal action.
    The reasons advanced by the SSC for the amalgamation are spurious and it is disappointing to see them swallowed uncritically by the government Ministers involved. Mr Peachey’s parrot like recitation about savings yesterday is particularly absurd when an independent assessment has concluded that barely $160,000 MIGHT be saved. Mind you, that assessment does not include costs for “re-branding” and the time that senior Archives manangers will be required to spend on DIA corporate issues, to say nothing of the loss of control that the Chief Archivist will suffer in setting Archives’ strategic direction and priorities. I would urge people to contact their local MPs and those on the Education & Science Committee to express their opposition to the impact of the SSM Bill on Archives. The nation’s archives should not be a political football and the need for the Chief Archivist to be independent should be beyond party politics and the fevered scheming of a band of nose-length visionaries fumbling about in a dark room at the SSC.

  6. Draco T Bastard 7

    Such corruption is inherent in a hierarchical socio-political system such as the one we live in. We need to do something about it and that starts with more openness of the data and information that the government is working with, encouraging more participation in the political system and then, finally, getting rid of the hierarchical system.

    PS, No, I’m not saying that a non-hierarchical system is free from corruption but that the corruption will have less effect and is more likely to be detected and prevented.

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