Monday, August 03, 2020

Amnesty International on transparency

Over on The spinoff, Amnesty International's Meg de Ronde has a response to Friday's release of the Hit and Run report. And in response to Attorney-General David Parker's claim that the government was being "transparent" by releasing the report, its titled "we shouldn’t have to work this hard to get transparency from our government". De Ronde points out that NZDF and the government in fact fought against transparency every step of the way, first opposing an inquiry, then ensuring it was held in secret, and all the while releasing as little information as possible and trying to discredit those who had exposed their crimes. And they have some pointy things to say about that culture of secrecy:

I have big concerns that if we don’t work hard, the current government and future governments will only pay lip service to the word transparency. My team and I are fighting constantly to get access to basic information about what the state is doing. The Official Information Act process is seemingly treated with disdain by many government departments and officials. We’ve had requests for basic information denied on spurious grounds or delayed for ridiculously long periods. Meanwhile, we don’t have access to data on the use of force by our police or on the lockdown hours in our prisons. It’s a waste of our time and resources. This information should be accessible.

A functioning freedom of information regime (or better, proactive disclosure) is a basic safety mechanism against government abuse. Our current regime was used to keep abuse hidden. The fact that that was legal represents a failure of the OIA regime, and correcting that failure should be the starting point for any reform.