Genter refuses to release the letter, saying it was sent in her capacity as Greens transport spokesperson, not as a minister of the government. This would mean that there were stronger reasons to refuse release under the Official Information Act and would also give Genter carte blanche to reject questions in parliament, since they would relate to “party” business, not her actions as a minister.
However, in an extraordinary display in the House yesterday, she admitted that the letter was written on her ministerial letterhead – in every formal sense, it was composed by the associate transport minister, not by Julie Anne Genter, Green MP.
This is key – she wrote as Associate Minister.
But Genter has taken the “different hats” doctrine to its absurd conclusion: that even when she sits down in a hat that says “associate minister of transport” and drafts a missive on ministerial letterhead about ministerial business, she may be wearing another, smaller hat underneath that says “none of your business, voters”, and we just have to take her word.
What Genter’s MacGuffin reveals about the government’s soul is that ministers no longer even feel the need to go to the effort of slickly juggling formal rules to avoid accountability or transparency. Peters himself sent out a government press release last year as deputy prime minister, and later refused to answer questions about it because he claimed he had meant to send it in his capacity as party leader.
What it has showed is that this government has not just failed to arrest, but has exacerbated the two decade long slide away from accountability, to the point where offices through incompetence or apathy seem unsure as to which hat they are wearing at any given time. It’s increasingly looking like the emperor isn’t wearing a hat at all.
From most open and transparent to least open and transparent ever.