Andrea Vance writes:
From the moment she took office in 2017, Jacinda Ardern promised her government would be the most open and transparent New Zealand has seen.
She also promised 100,000 Kiwibuild homes, Auckland Light Rail and a new Dunedin Hospital. Never has a Government broken so many promises.
This year, I have made more complaints to the Ombudsman than in any previous year. So far, every one has been upheld.
In my 20-year plus time as a journalist, this Government is one of the most thin-skinned and secretive I have experienced. Many of my colleagues say the same.
Yet it seems that it is only when National is in power, do we get groups springing up saying how the OIA must be reformed. Where is the Coalition for Open Government today?
Take the last week. Two senior Stuff journalists attempted to interview Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, at a time when the China-Australia-New-Zealand relationship is under intense international scrutiny.
It didn’t happen. Not because of any geo-political sensitivities. Nor something as trivial as a diary clash. The paranoid and hyper-sensitive minister objected to taking questions from two journalists at once.
Well being able to handle two journalists at once is obviously very daunting to a brand new MP. She has onlyh been an MP for 25 years. Maybe once she has been there 50 years, she could handle that.
My OIA request – which by law should be answered within 20 working days – was delayed, and eventually took five times that length.
That’s five months or so.
Since the current Government took office, the number of communications specialists have ballooned. Each minister has at least two press secretaries. (Ardern has four).
The PM has always had four or so, but it is a new development each Minister having two. In the past only the most senior Ministers with huge portfolio loads would have more than one.
And the prime minister’s office makes sure their audience is captured, starting the week and cementing the agenda with a conference call with political editors.
Interesting. Are those calls reportable?
Perhaps the trials and tribulations of the nation’s journalists do not concern you. Why should you care?
Because the public’s impression of this government is the very opposite.
They see a prime minister that has captivated the world with her ‘authentic’ communication style, intimate social media postings, daily Covid briefings and proactive releases of Cabinet papers.
It is an artfully-crafted mirage, because the reality is very different. This is a Government that is only generous with the information that it chooses to share.
It’s the same as the myth that the Covid-19 response was just following the science.