Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Ports and transparency IV: Labour takes up the challenge

Last month, I did a series of posts on ports and transparency, noting that port companies were excluded from the coverage of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act despite every single one of them being majority council-owned and therefore meeting the definition of a Council Controlled Organisation if they had not been excluded. There is a basic democratic principle at stake here: we own these companies, and so we should be able to see what they are doing. We recognise that principle (at least in relation to local government) for almost any other sort of company; we should recognise it for ports too.

The final post in that series presented a bill to rectify the situation. Now that bill has been taken up by Labour's Darien Fenton:

The Government should have no problem supporting a bill to make ratepayer owned ports accessible under the Official Information Act, says Labour MP Darien Fenton.

“Ratepayers have the right to information surrounding the management and functioning of public assets.

“At the moment, ports are specifically excluded from public information requests under the Local Government Act – a situation that means the ratepayers who own port companies and those who use them have no right to request information about how they are run.

“My members bill - the Local Government (Council Controlled Organisations) Amendment Bill - offers a simple measure to ensure all public-owned entities are held equally accountable,” Darien Fenton said.

This is good to see. As Fenton points out, its ridiculous that we can request information from our schools, local libraries, and SOEs (and hundreds of other organisations) - but not from our council owned ports. And as far as support goes, its a no-brainer; the government cannot credibly support secrecy on this, in the face of the long-established principle that council control equals transparency.

Fenton will be tabling the bill today, and it will hopefully be in a ballot tomorrow. The sooner it is drawn, the better.