NRT: An abuse of the OIA

Written By: - Date published: 4:14 pm, June 20th, 2014 - 39 comments
Categories: corruption, david cunliffe, john banks, public services - Tags: , , , , , , , ,

no-right-turn-256Reposted from No Right Turn

So it turns out that Immigration released letters from David Cunliffe and Chris Carter in support of Donghua Liu, but kept letters from government MPs secret:

Letters of support from two Government MPs for Donghua Liu’s citizenship bid have been kept secret – despite letters from Labour politicians for his residency bid being released this week.

The Herald reported in March that Liu received citizenship in 2010 against official advice after lobbying by Maurice Williamson, the Minister for Building and Construction, and John Banks, the Mayor of Auckland at the time who later entered Parliament as an Act MP.

However, the Department of Internal Affairs refused to release the letters sent by Mr Williamson and Mr Banks under the privacy and commercial provisions in the Official Information Act.

The Office of the Ombudsman is reviewing the decision but the Herald also asked the DIA to reconsider after Immigration officials released letters from Labour MPs David Cunliffe and Chris Carter written for Liu’s residency bid.

This looks like a blatantly political release decision to advance the interests of the government of the day. It is an abuse of the Act which shames the entire public service and calls its impartiality into question. Transparency of official information applies to everyone, not just the government’s enemies.

As for the merits, its hard to see how privacy concerns would be any greater than in the released letters. As for commercial confidentiality, any clause referring to the specifics of Liu’s business dealings can simply be redacted. These letters should be released immediately.

39 comments on “NRT: An abuse of the OIA”

  1. Ant 1

    The Nats have already hit their target, the damage is done and the audience has switched off until the next one. Also as if Key will be held for account for this…

    The all too often pattern will repeat of a complementary article on how clever and insightful John Key is for anticipating this letter and getting Williamson to resign.

  2. grumpy 2

    Trying to influence immigration/police/other – Williamson – sacked.
    Not disclosing donations – Banks – guilty.
    Labour/Cunliffe – still playing out

    • karol 2.1

      Banks was found guilty of a false return, claiming a donation was anonymous when it wasn’t. It took McCready to bring that case, and many journos then claim Banks is not really guilty.

      Cunliffe who has done nothing wrong and gets smeared on an irrelevant triviality. Meanwhile Woodhouse and who knows who else (probably key) are abusing OIA’s for political ends. What’s being done about this abuse?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1

        What’s being done? The National Party has put in an executive order to defund the investigators. That’s what.

        The best response is to burn the National Party to the ground then salt the soil. Failing that we could win the election I suppose.

  3. mickysavage 3

    Yep and not telling Labour until 5 minutes before the release was appalling. This was deeply political activity by the Immigration Department.

  4. Will@Welly 4

    The Nats are in control. Love it/hate it, that is the reality. They have superb advice flowing in from across the Tasman. And in Joyce, a game-player. Key – doesn’t give a sh!t. Truth is the first casualty.
    Whoever is running the strategy in the Labour Party needs to up their game. We saw it at the last election, the same mistakes are being made.
    National have made political appointments within the public service for a reason, and reorganised it too. While the divide grows, those at the top, swing further to the right.
    Look at how many have been ‘hand-picked’ and brought out from England, all disciples of Thatcherism.

  5. karol 5

    NRT on Twitter is claiming Labour/advisors have been incompetent over this.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1


      • karol 5.1.1

        NRT’s twitter. He said the same after the 2003 letter was made public.
        I queried it. At that time NRT replied that Cunliffe would have been notified in advance that the OIA had been requested, and should have been able to front foot it. now it turns out Cunliffe was only notified a half an hour or so before the 2003 was made public.

        So I’m not sure why NRT still thinks Labour has been incompetent over this. And with this new info about abuse of OIA – really, it just means Labour is not as ruthklessly unethical as National, as far as I can see.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Sorry Karol I should have been clearer. I found the twitfeed (if that’s the correct expression) but not the actual comment.

          • karol

            Scroll down. There’s several comments near the top of the feed. Seems to me easier than me linking to each comment.

        • mickysavage

          now it turns out Cunliffe was only notified a half an hour or so before the 2003 was made public

          I heard it was 5 minutes …

          • karol

            I’m only repeating what I’ve read on discussions here. Who has the actual info on when Cunliffe was informed?

            • mickysavage

              Just found out. It was 30 minutes, not 5 minutes but Cunliffe was out of the office and did not see it until after the release. Either way it is appalling.

              • Ant

                Would they have known he wasn’t in the office?

                • mickysavage

                  Don’t know but to process and understand something like this you need at least 12 hours. The turnover of the request was remarkably fast, remarkably fast.

                  And when you see that the DIA refused to release the National MP’s letters you really have to wonder …

                  • RedLogix

                    There is no wondering about it.

                    I’ve been watching this unfold with a certain detachment. The crucial thing to understand is how this affair exposes and confirms two things:

                    Corruption and bias in the media. In particular Armstrong has outed himself as a National party water carrier.

                    Corruption and bias in the public service. Various govt. agencies are now plainly acting as National party functionaries.

                    The Establishment has taken a firm grip of New Zealand. Democracy is irrelevant …. only right-wing governments are allowed.

                    • Draco T Bastard


                      NZ is probably as much a plutocracy as the US. The people need to wake up to this and do something about it.

  6. jaymam 6

    The letters from National will have to be released or bloody else. However if that takes a while it will damage National until they are released.

  7. Blue 7

    Another day, another piece of evidence demonstrating how corrupt this National Government is.

    • Steve Reeves 7.1

      I’d go further (though you are right, of course).

      The main difference between Labour and National (and their various groupings) is that:

      Labour have ideas which are based around not hurting people if at all possible;

      National have ideas which do hurt people and they don’t see that as a bad thing.

      • Colonial Viper 7.1.1

        Labour have ideas which are based around not hurting people if at all possible;

        If Labour want to win this election with anything more than a 2 seat majority they better go from being mostly harmless to being mostly good for the citizenry.

        • Steve Reeves

          Agreed…but that might just be too hard…looks a bit too scary and active and….stuff.

          As you may have noticed, I have low expectations 🙁

  8. NZ Femme 8

    The DIA has 6 Ministerial Portfolios. The Internal Affairs portfolio is overseen by Peter Dunne. Am not particularly surprised the OIA requests for Williamson and Banks were refused, and is now with the Ombudsman.

    Hopefully the Ombudsman’s office will take their own advice :

    “In a previous election period, the Office of the Ombudsmen commented on the extreme importance of a well-informed electorate at the time of a general election. The Ombudsmen were critical about State servants who had become involved in assessing the political consequences of releasing information, rather than making a decision in a politically neutral manner.”

    Woodhouse has now thrown his staff at the Immigration Department under the bus:

    “The Immigration Minister’s unable to explain why officials cherry-picked information about Donghua Liu, while putting together a file for him.”


    “Clearly wasn’t relevant to things happening to me. I wasn’t searching the file for things to do with Mr O’Connor or anything else. I was interested in the tidiness of the file.”

    • NZ Femme 8.1

      Incidentally, Maryann Street released some commentary regarding potential flaws to the changed 2014 SSC guidelines for civil servants answering OIA requests. She’s pretty much nailed it – what’s unfolded here is what she suggested could happen.

    • Mike the Savage One 8.2

      How convenient it is for the government, that the Office of Ombudsmen is still so underfunded, despite of some additional funds having been given not long ago, and has a huge backlog of cases to assess, so it is always struggling to investigate and review matters.

      This government has allowed that Offices of the Privacy Commissioner, the Health and Disability Commissioner, other Commissioners and the Office of Ombudsmen have been struggling with limited funds, to deal with an increasing work load.

      Not long ago the Office of Ombudsmen sent automated email confirmations, stating that a response to a complaint or request can be expected within a month. That was just for an initial response. They may have been able to reduce that time a bit, but I know from people dealing with the Office, that they still have many files before them, that take months if not well over a year to resolve.

      So do not expect any change in this prior to the election.

      Like other things, also legal aid, community law services, advocacy services, crisis helplines and more have had funding cut or capped, or only added after long delays, and so many out there do not get the help they need.

      This is stuff the wider electorate has no clue about, as they usually never access these services. That is how the Nats get away with it, to shut up critics, dissenters and those wanting their rights heard.

      Vote National and we get more of this, and all your “freedom” will only be to get up, rush to your slave job, work yourselves tired and sick, and then head home, get brainwashed by media, get access to increasing paywall services online, and then drop into bed, to rest for another day of the same.

      “Freedom” in Aotearoa New Zealand 2014, under Key and his government!

      • NZ Femme 8.2.1

        Yes, well, perhaps if certain National MP’s stopped tying up their staff with suspect personal cherry-picking projects, they’d have more time to answer OIA requests in a timely manner.

        • Mike the Savage One

          It is rather a case of National led governments having created so many system and other changes, that have led to more complaints being made all over, and that these simply cannot be handled appropriately and in a timely fashion by the offices and services I mentioned.

          Think of the many investigations the Ombudsman was asked to conduct in main issues over recent years, tying up much of their staff and resources, many of these issues became such, due to law changes and so, under the Nats.

          Reviewing OIA decisions is also one of the core tasks of the Office of Ombudsmen, but the government simply (cunningly and wrongfully) blames Labour MPs and staffers for the increase in OIA complaints, claiming this was leading to the Ombudsmen struggling to get their other work done.

          • Colonial Viper

            and that these simply cannot be handled appropriately and in a timely fashion by the offices and services I mentioned.

            Yep, cut funding, cut staff, let performance stumble and drop, classic Tory tactics

  9. McFlock 9

    The minister was only interested in the “tidiness” of the file??

    ffs – what does that even mean? That he wanted three staples to hold the pages together, rather the unruly “one in the corner” method?

  10. greywarbler 10

    What a dodgy business. The dirty dogs of the Nact gang trying to present something that was legitimate and happened a decade ago as parallel to a current misdemeanour by National. Slimy Joyce talking about it trying out his integrity voice in mock outrage. The man is a creep.

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