The Government has injuncted* RNZ from running a story based on a leaked Kiwirail document that shows National’s under-investment in Kiwirail will make the tracks more dangerous and less useable at a time when it is firing 200 maintenance staff. Brownlee’s excuse? “the media outlet that wanted to publish an opinion about that document was going to do so in a most irresponsible way”
It’s really reached that point now, where the Nats think they have the right to censor coverage that they don’t agree with. Key set the standard (assisted by the craven Police) by having media outlets raided during an election campaign to chill them into not running the details of what he said to a political ally in a public cafe in front of the nation’s media. Now, ministers obviously think its open season – they can bully, threaten, and take court action against any media outlet that is preparing to “publish an opinion …. in a most irresponsible way”.
The real worry is that the media will accept this. To their credit, the print media have reacted by publishing Phil Twyford’s account of the contents of the Kiwirail document in full but they haven’t yet stood up for their rights as a free press.
*(I’m not sure but I think the injunction must only be a temporary one while arguments are heard. I can’t imagine that a court would actually prevent the media covering a story just because they had gotten hold of a draft document that a government agency didn’t want them to have).
For the record and to spit in the face of government censorship, here’s Twyford’s account of what is in the document from Parliament yesterday:
Phil Twyford: Has the board of KiwiRail advised him that from 2014 onwards the rail asset will decline and disruption risk will grow, that when spending gets back to current levels it will take many years to pull back from the decline, that virtually all rail routes will run down in some way, and that by 2015 KiwiRail will be doing 50 percent less track renewal work; if so, how can he still have confidence in the board?
Phil Twyford: Has the board of KiwiRail advised him that the amount to be spent on timber bridges will be cut substantially, projects on the main trunk line will be cancelled or deferred, the overall condition of railway sleepers will decline, and KiwiRail will have to accept a higher level of unplanned disruptions such as slips and erosion?
Phil Twyford: Has the board of KiwiRail advised him that the coal routes between Lyttelton and the West Coast and the route known as the golden triangle of forestry, which runs between Hamilton, Murupara, and Kawerau, have been coded by KiwiRail as TM4, which means their track metrics are unacceptable and pose a safety risk and are prejudicial to the customer base; if so, how can he still have confidence in the board?
Phil Twyford: Will he ask the chair of the board to tell KiwiRail management to call off the cuts to network maintenance because of the risk they pose to the organisation?
Phil Twyford: Will he acknowledge not only that KiwiRail cannot meet the financial targets of the Turnaround Plan, as the Minister did in this House last week, but also that the Turnaround Plan is unrealistic and is driving KiwiRail to make decisions like sacking 181 workers and deferring $200 million of network maintenance?