Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Their silence speaks volumes

After my last post, I was curious: how many MPs have raised the matter of Parliament's exclusion from the OIA in the House in recent years? I've spent the last half hour grepping Hansard, and the answer is just one. back in 2005, in the debate on the Appropriation (Parliamentary Expenditure Validation) Bill back in 2006, Rodney Hide said:

Let me put in my two pennies’ worth. I think we should have budgets, like we have with the leaders’ budgets and for MPs. I do not think we can control the spending with a whole lot of rules. I think that is too tough. So I suggest instead that we have fewer rules and more transparency. I think the public has a right to know how political parties spend its money, what they spend it on, and how it is broken down, and I think the Parliamentary Service should be subject to the Official Information Act. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Labour Party should be able to take its leader’s budget and spend it on the pledge card. That is its budget. But I say that the public has a right to know, because we have found that that is where the rubber hits the road. The public has a right to know how we spend its money.
And that's it - one off-hand comment in the last ten years (which, I note, has never been followed up on with a member's bill trying to do anything about it). Beyond that, no-one has expressed an opinion in the House. And that I think speaks volumes about our MP's love of the secretive status quo.

(Several MPs - notably Margaret Wilson - have advocated greater transparency outside the House, and IIRC Rod Donald pushed a member's bill on the issue in the 90's which was never drawn. But none of that was on the parliamentary record, which is almost entirely silent. It would be nice if someone, anyone down there would raise the issue in general debate sometime, push for greater openness, and try and shame the rest of them into action).