Friday, June 17, 2022

Labour: $1 million a year is "too much" for transparency

Back in 2018 the government proposed an OIA review. After a ludicrious attempt to do it in secret, they finally held a public consultation, which made a clear case for reform. They then sat on it for a year, before announcing out of the blue that they planned to rewrite the Act. And then, less than six months later, they shitcanned it, because years of austerity have meant that the Ministry of Justice is so under-resourced that it can no longer walk and chew gum at the same time, and Labour would rather they focused their efforts on giving them a four year term.

So what would it have cost? How much is "too much" for this government to pay for transparency? After a year-long battle, the Ministry has finally released all the documents unredacted: the draft cabinet paper, and rejected budget bid (other documents and redacted versions can be seen here). The budget bid makes it clear that a full review by the Ministry of Justice would have cost less than $4 million over four years - $1 million a year. Which is pocket change on a government scale - but apparently too much for Labour to pay. Which shows you just how little they value being "the most open, most transparent Government that New Zealand has ever had"...

(That cost is for an internal review by MoJ. As I've said before, they're probably not the best people to do it, as they lack both independence and credibility on the topic. By way of comparison, the Law Commission's 2012 review cost something like $2.6 million over three years (Their 2010 Statement of Intent says they had a total budget for advice of $3.5 million, with an expectation of 3-5 reports to parliament each year). So, an independent, external review would be no more expensive, and possibly cheaper, even allowing for inflation. But then Kibblewhite wouldn't be able to strap the chicken...)

Its also worth noting that - as an unredacted email states - this was a confidence and supply issue, to meet the commitment in the Labour - Greens 2017 confidence and supply agreement to "Strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information". But after dragging their feet on it for years, it got dumped the moment the political situation changes (unlike the promises made to NZ First around climate change, capital gains taxes, waka jumping etc, which are apparently fixed and immutable). So again, that tells us how much is "too much" for Labour to keep its promises: $1 million a year. Future cooperation partners should take this as a warning.