Sunday, March 06, 2022

Why Labour buried the OIA review

Why did Labour bury its promised review of the OIA? When the news first broke, it was about priorities: the Ministry of Justice was simply too busy with other things. A subsequent OIA release made it clear that austerity was partly to blame: years of penny-pinching by successive governments had eroded MoJ's policy capacity, to the extent it was unable to meet Ministerial demands for advice and was forced to prioritise. But now, a further release forced by the Ombudsman has made it clear: Labour killed the OIA review so MoJ could focus on the "higher priority" of giving them a four-year term.

The link is explicitly made in a less-redacted copy of a 2020 briefing on "Policy Projects". After noting the need to prioritise due to lack of capacity, the briefing included a table of projects that could be deferred. Only the OIA review line is shown (the rest being out of scope of the request), but it explicitly links deferral to the new government's "electoral projects":


What were the government's "electoral projects"? Back in December 2020 when this briefing was prepared, it included controversial changes to MMP to make the system less representative, and a surprise proposal to extend the parliamentary term from three to four years, reducing the accountability of politicians. So a project intended to improve accountability was killed in favour of one to reduce it. Which I guess shows exactly how much of a priority they place on being "the most open, most transparent Government that New Zealand has ever had"...