A month seems early for a new government to dash hopes of a fresh start – yet Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s team seems determined to break the speed record when it comes to disregard for public transparency.
The justifications the new Government has offered for keeping a coalition document behind closed doors, as first reported by Newsroom, appear flimsy at best and cynical at worst.
What is even more galling is the non-secret part of the coalition agreement explicitly commits them to being more transparent! Shows how serious they are.
Ardern insisted the slender, publicly released coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First covered everything to which the two parties had formally committed.
The document Peters referred to, she said, were merely “notes” made during the course of discussions, yet to be finalised.
“Where we’ve committed ourselves to a piece of work and a policy piece of work, we’ve released that. Where there’s more work to be done, that will be released at the time when we’ve reached a conclusion.”
That is not a reason to withhold under the OIA. Just because something is not finalised doesn’t mean it can be refused.
The 33 pages of future work is a massively important document. It will tell us what the future areas of work for the Government will be. I can’t think of a document likely to have a bigger impact than this one.
Labour and New Zealand First sold their “official” agreement to the public as the sum total of the concessions that had been made to form coalition government.
As it turns out, ministers and their officials may be beavering away on dozens more policies as a result of horse trading, without any transparency over what they are or how much they may cost.
Ardern tried to argue it was right to keep that information from the public: “There are other areas that we may explore together that may be found to be unworkable, that may be found to just be fiscally irresponsible, that may never be progressed.”
But simply because a policy the Government is actively considering may turn out to be “fiscally irresponsible” is not a reason to keep it out of the public’s eye.
Yep. You just make clear these are areas of work under consideration, not committed to.