Monday, November 27, 2017

Time to stand up for open government

The new government's attitude to transparency has suddenly become a concern, with an apparent trend of secrecy setting in early. Playing silly buggers over requests for basic information. Slacking around on releasing briefings to Incoming Ministers. Trying to pretend that official information isn't. These are not the actions of a government dedicated to transparency and opennness. They are not the actions that Labour promised.

Part of the problem is undoubtedly new Ministers getting to grips with their role. Part of it is a desire among senior Labour figures for utu against National over all the bullshit they had to put up with while in opposition. But part of it is that there's no real voice for transparency, no strong lobby for openness, no-one keeping an eye on them. Political scientist Bryce Edwards is suggesting we change that, by forming a new Coalition for Open Government:

Calling all journalists, academics, public servants, political activists, and members of the public who believe in the need for government to be more open with its information. We need to form a coalition to fix the Official Information Act (OIA).

It’s time for everyone who believes in reforming the OIA processes to join together and campaign to make that actually happen. Such a coalition could guide the new government in making the necessary changes so that New Zealand is once again a world leader in open government, the way we were in 1982 when the extraordinary act was introduced.


Now is the perfect time to act. Whenever a new government is formed, it’s normally enthusiastic and idealistic about fixing problems in the system. And when it comes to problems with the OIA, the parties coming in from opposition are highly sensitive to its faults because they’ve been on the receiving end of governments keeping an overly-tight grip on information.

The parties making up the new coalition government have protested strongly against abuses of the OIA that occurred under National. So, hopefully they’ll want to prioritise some sort of review aimed at fixing the problems.


If you’re interested, please get in touch. Contact me:

I'm definitely interested. We need a voice on this - not just a group to lobby the government, but also to advocate in the media for greater transparency and provide reactions to open government stories. Not to mention to stick up for all the other groups - journalists, NGOs, environmental organisations, and victims of government bureaucracy - who depend on the OIA to do their jobs or get justice. If you're interested in openness, this is definitely worth exploring.