Did you know that by the 2nd half of 2018 – 95% of all Official Information Act requests were completed on time under Labour, compared with only 91% in 2015/2016 under National?
Who would know that sort of statistic – unless you dug into the numbers and searched around for the overall context – about open and transparent government – and just exactly what Andrea Vance was complaining about in her article titled ” This Government promised to be open and transparent, but it is an artfully-crafted mirage.”
Vance may be talking about words said by Clare Curran in 2018 – or she may be referring to a couple of sentences in the 2017 Speech from the Throne ( which she later quotes ) …but her referenced links to a first speech do not show the source of such a promise clearly.
Instead Vance’s links go to articles that don’t even mention such a promise, which is not very open and transparent really and I do feel like complaining about how I had to look into this to find her sources.
I feel like pointing out that “this government” is not “the coalition government” so even the title of Vance’s article is fraught with misleading inaccuracy.
Vance states that a promise was made and then leaps past all the things that have happened which should give us confidence that any government led by Jacinda Ardern is more open and transparent than those run by previous governments. For example it was not until September 2018 that any New Zealand government proactively released Cabinet Papers within 30 day to the media.
You could argue that this action by itself fulfilled the words in 2017 Speech from the Throne which read, ” This government will foster a more open and democratic society. It will strengthen transparency around official information.” But why stop there – or omit all of this like Vance did?
Under Jacinda Ardern’s world class open and transparent leadership – the diaries of all of her MPs have been made available for the press to scrutinise as well, which never happened under previous governments.
Why didn’t Vance mention this?
For some reason Andrea Vance did not mention these matters – nor did she mention – that the media not only now get access to cabinet papers – but also – all of the associated research papers that went into writing those cabinet papers…handed to them on a plate.
“They’ve done nothing”, shouted an organic punga pretending to be an entitled lazy journalist.
“Information is harder to get than ever, because I didn’t get invited to an interview”, howled a flax bush.
I hate to keep stressing the point – but the Coalition Government also sought feedback about whether the Official Information ACT needed to be reviewed – and they discovered some areas that need improvement – like for example – there is no legal indemnity for documents that are proactively released – which meant the law provided an incentive NOT to release it.
Another factor is the sheer volume of “official information” has gone way up – with Twitter and email and letters all now having to be captured – in an increasingly digital world.
So Chris Hipkins is looking into solutions and Chris Faafoi reckoned the law review will happen later in this parliamentary term. The increase has meant more staff are required – and Vance is not happy with the number of Press Secretaries around Jacinda and others MPs.
The point I suppose is that governments led by Jacinda Ardern are working on being more open and transparent – and to be frank, the person who is best placed to comment is actually Peter Boshier – because he is the Ombudsman.
Vance did not report upon the detail behind Boshier’s findings in her four complaints, and so we don’t know why there was a delay with some of her OIA requests.
We don’t know but Vance does have the details – she just never reported upon them – whilst complaining that weekly press conferences do not allow for detailed questioning.
She is not alone.
Barry Soper was peeved that Jacinda does not have chats with him over drinks beside the fire – like back in the good old days when Journalists had a “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” relationship with politicians.
These journalists want easy inside doorways to headlines – and many write pretty one eyed bitter opinions these days – usually anti government – and often replete with media spin – so I have little sympathy for this bitching and moaning.
For example recently nearly all New Zealand media repeated that public servants earning over $60,000 could only get a pay increase in “exceptional circumstances” – when the actual official information stated there were “restricted circumstances”.
Which raises the point – that even with the Official Information – media may actually spin the facts into a fiction.
There’s a long list of excellent reasons why some official information under the OIA act 1982 – should not be released. These include things like National defence and security, International relations, confidential information supplied by other Governments, maintenance of the law, individual safety and serious damage to the NZ economy.
Did Andrea Vance mention any of this? Nope, why would she?The National Party and media convinced about 30% of voters that Jacinda was hiding the Coalition Agreement with NZ First – when what was really going on – was negotiation notes – used before the formation of the Coalition – were NOT official information used by any minister. That’s what Peter Boshier – told all the Nat Trolls at Newscrap ZB lol. – sorry that’s not official info – it’s info used by the leader of a political party ( eg caucus info ).
Not many members of the public understand that someone like Jacinda operates under a number of capacities – like in her private capacity, her capacity as an MP, or as a leader of a political party – and none of the information in those capacities – is official information.
“Official information” is defined in section 2 of the Act as any information held by a department or organisation (as defined, “organisation” includes most agencies in the wider state sector) or a Minister of the Crown (including a Parliamentary Under-Secretary) in his or her official capacity.
So it depends on the capacity – and Vance can’t expect to always get information if it is not official. It’s easier just to complain about how much is redacted – you know like personal information that needed to be disaggregated from the official information.
There’s also the stupid, time wasting Official Information Requests – like “Is David Seymour a Hologram?” – which could take years to answer accurately.
Plus there’s National asking over 6000 written questions per month just to bog down government. I’d call that a bit of gaming the system – which does happen.
About 80% of OIA requests are made by members of the public – and only 20% by Journalists. One member of the public can make hundreds of OIA requests in a form of “denial of Service attack” or to skew the statistics about how many OIA requests have not been answered.
Which brings me to the words used by Andrea Vance, to describe this government’s transparency as “an artfully crafted mirage”.
Vance has no business making such statements without proper data to support her opinion. Vance’s article did not provide statistics – about all the state sector departments and how they are responding, nor what was redacted nor the reasons why information was redacted.
She did not detail all the complaints made under this government – nor the answers to those complaints made by Peter Boshier. In other words – it was Vance who was spinning an artfully created mirage in her article based on a few anecdotal experiences she had over the past year.
Some people say she made excellent points and it was a good read – while others said – it was not Jacinda’s fault – it was those idiots in the public service.
Truth is – Vance wrote a lazy article for lazy minds who do not think critically and who are easily mislead by any old opinion from a bitter, twisted and vengeful media.
The overall facts were missing – but some readers formed a view without them. Andrea’s artfully crafted mirage