Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Inaction speaks louder than words

One of the good things the government has done is implement a proactive release policy, requiring most cabinet papers to be published within 30 working days of a decision being made. Its not a perfect policy (note "most", but also they get to redact them however they want, without oversight), but its a significant advance, especially compared to backwards regimes which still keep Cabinet material secret (and then wheel stuff through the Cabinet room on tea trolleys so they can claim it is "Cabinet material"). According to the original Cabinet paper, the policy was meant to be reviewed by December 2019. But as Newsroom reports, that just hasn't happened:

More than 18 months on from that deadline, that review has still not been completed. Work on a single point of access for the proactively released material, mentioned in the paper, also does not seem to have been meaningfully progressed.

Speaking to Newsroom, Hipkins said there was no particular reason for the report’s delay but there had been “ongoing reviews” about the effectiveness of the proactive releases and where to head next. The proactive release of Cabinet papers was working well, as was that of ministerial diaries – although there were some ministers who “need to be chased from time to time” to meet the required deadlines.

["ongoing reviews"? To the OIA!]

Hipkins says he's pro-open government, and I've heard that from TKM-PSC as well. But actions - or rather, inaction - speaks louder than words. If this is actually a government priority, then maybe they should start acting like it. I would love to see progress on this, not just more material and a central repository, but also a legal framework obligating release, release of cabinet agendas and ministerial briefing lists so we can see what is not being released, and extending the Ombudsman's OIA jurisdiction so we can challenge those decisions. In other words, legal rights, not grace and favour. That would be a massive advance in transparency, and a great legacy for a pro-open government minister.