Written By: - Date published: 2:08 pm, December 4th, 2017 - 31 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, accountability, democracy under attack, democratic participation, Dirty Politics, helen clark, john key, leadership, Media - Tags:
This morning on RNZ there was an excellent interview with the Chief Ombudsmen, Peter Boshier.
He explains the failures of the OIA process and sheets it back to a lack of enforcement, a lack of top down leadership and the practice of political advisers putting public servants under pressure to withhold or redact information.
He points out the “no surprises” policy has been distorted from its purpose. Its purpose was for Ministers to get advanced warning of announcements so they would not be embarrassed in the corridor when bailed up on it in a corridor.
Instead it has been used by governments to pressure or delay the release of the information. It probably started in the middle of Helen Clark’s Labour Government. It was manna from heaven for a guy with Key’s low ethical standards (if it is legal it’s ok – a mantra which completely ignored the Cabinet Manual he presided over).
To be clear Boshier is suggesting that when CEO of Kiwirail wanted to release a report on rail, under the no surprises policy he is obligated to let the Minister know what he is going to release and when. It is NOT an opportunity for the Minister to direct it be delayed, redacted or buried. BUT that is what political advisers did.
Laws are only as good as the ability to enforce and the intention of those in a position to subvert, to not. John Key presided over 9 years of “pretty legal” and “if it isn’t illegal or we won’t get caught it is ok, or if we get caught what can they do? This presumably is a course of action he learned in his career?
It is not good enough in Government when you represent the interests of all New Zealanders and have sworn to uphold the law to behave that way. Again the Cabinet manual is very clear that in their personal and professional capacity all Ministers must behave according to the law “and” to the highest standard of ethics. The last 2 prime Ministers ignored the second directive from the Manual when dealing with breaches by their MPs. Boshier suggested that once his office mad eit clear they would call out Ministers subverting the OIA, the flow of information speeded up.
David Fisher, of the Herald, wrote a good article on the OIA back in 2014. You can read it here.