Key’s excuse for not telling Parliament why he lost confidence in Richard Worth is that it isn’t in the public interest to say. So let’s think about this â€˜public interest’ excuse.
â€˜Public interest’ is very rarely used; Trevor Mallard said he can think of two other times it has been invoked during his time in Parliament. The only judge of whether it would be deleterious to the public interest to answer is the minister. While it is open to political abuse, as is clearly the case here, most ministers have had the sense to see that it’s better to admit a damaging answer than invoke public interest to futilely try to keep it secret.
The presumption in a democratic government has to be on the side of disclosure. So, the test for using the public interest excuse shouldn’t be ‘would it be in the public interest to answer, otherwise don’t answer’; it’s ‘would it be deleterious to the public interest to answer, otherwise answer’. Important difference. Not disclosing should only be done for good public interest reasons like national security, judicial independence, the country’s economic welfare. Using the public interest excuse for political reasons would be a serious abuse of the privileges and trust granted to ministers.
This appears to be the only time it has been so transparently used for political gain, rather than a genuine public interest issue.
Still, there’s some more questions that can be asked of Key:
Keep asking the questions – the truth will out.