Another day, another government abuse of the OIA - this time over GPS speeding data from Ministerial vehicles:
Opposition parties have called for GPS data from Crown limousines to be released - a move which would reveal what speeds the vehicles had been travelling.
The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) is also refusing to release details about any speeding tickets collected by ministers driving their taxpayer-funded cars, citing privacy reasons.
Now, the DIA's general manager of ministerial services, Andrew McConnell, has confirmed that Crown limos are equipped with GPS units but says the data will not released because it was "necessary to maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through the protection of such ministers from improper pressure or harassment".
What sort of "improper pressure or harassment"? presumably they're thinking that it might lead to MPs who have been speeding to be distracted from their jobs by public criticism, or maybe even dragged into court as Helen Clark was. But the Ombudsman's guidelines are clear:
“Improper pressure or harassment” is something more than ill considered or irritating criticism or unwanted publicity. It is a course of conduct that has such an effect on the person against whom it is directed that he or she is unable to perform his or her duties effectively and hence the conduct of public affairs is at risk.
The latter part is key. And in order to justify withholding information, it must not just be possible, but highly likely to occur. And I do not believe for a moment that Ministerial Services has met that threshold. Instead, they're just abusing the OIA to engage in a tawdry political cover-up to protect the arses of Ministers. And responsibility for that should be sheeted home to their responsible Minister: John Key.