Friday, February 26, 2010

The government is afraid II

They've taken Regulatory Impact Statements out of bills.

A Regulatory Impact Statement is a formal summary of the case for a particular piece of legislation. It sets out the problem, the possible options to solve it, which option is preferred and why, as well as who was consulted. It lets policymakers and legislators see the government's thinking and that they've considered some alternatives, and whether the case for action is strong or weak. Since 2007 (and possibly earlier), the RIS has been included in the explanatory note to a bill for the information of MPs. This led to several embarrassing incidents for the National government, when RISs on important legislation (such as the "boy racer" laws or its modified ETS) were publicly declared to be inadequate by Treasury right there in the bill itself.

In response, the government has decided to hide the RISs. Instead of being printed with the bill, they will be put up on a website somewhere, with only a URL provided. The government is clearly hoping that no-one will bother to look - or, in the case of MPs, that they won't be able to, since hardcopy doesn't do hypertext. In other words, they hope to prevent further embarrassments by hiding the information. And they've already been successful, in that Treasury's adverse comments [PDF] on the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill (basically, that the government makes no case for its preferred option of disconnecting people from the internet) has been buried.

This is not the action of a government which believes it is making good legislation which can withstand public scrutiny. Instead, it is the action of a government which knows that it cannot make a rational case for many of its "reforms", and is desperately trying to stop people from learning that until it is too late.