Thursday, October 16, 2014

John Key's contempt for our democracy

John Key has admitted what we all knew: that his government delays OIA requests for its own political purposes:

Mr Key has always maintained that when it comes to requests for official information, his ministers act within the law.

But he has now revealed a strategy which appears at odds with that.

"Sometimes we wait the 20 days because, in the end, Government might take the view that's in our best interest to do that," he said.

And meanwhile, it uses the OIA as a backchannel to deliver dirt to its sewer-bloggers with a 20-minute response time...

The Ombudsman has pointed out that this is illegal. Responses must be made "as soon as reasonably practicable", with 20 working days as an upper limit. The government's political interests are not part of that calculation. But there's no penalties for non-compliance, and systematic government underfunding means that they won't even get a stern letter from the Ombudsman until a year after the fact. Which is why today's news is full of what should have been 2013's scoops: because the government has manipulated the process designed to hold it to account.

How do we fix this? Removing the current government is an obvious first step. But we can't rely on politicians to behave lawfully and with respect for our democracy out of the kindness of their hearts. So we need an Ombudsman's office with real funding and real teeth, backed by a law with criminal penalties where politicians have conspired to undermine our right to know.