Wednesday, March 16, 2022

More Labour secrecy

The government introduced a new Natural Hazards Insurance Bill today to replace EQC. And as has become depressingly usual from this government, it includes a secrecy clause. Section 113 of the bill requires insurers to pay levies to the new Natural Hazards Commission. Section 118 of the bill requires them to keep that information secret, on pain of a $50,000 fine.

The clause essentially re-enacts section 25 of the old Earthquake Commission Act 1993, but with a significantly higher penalty (the penalty under the current Act is a $1,000 fine). But that isn't a justification. The information covered by the secrecy clause is obviously commercially sensitive, and its provision is compelled by an enactment. It can therefore be withheld under sections 9(2)(b)(ii) and 9(2)(ba) of the Official Information Act. While a public interest test applies, its hard to see how the usual public interests of transparency, accountability, and participation apply, so really it would only be disclosed where there was evidence of fraud. Which seems like the right level of protection (interestingly, as written the secrecy clause seems to forbid disclosure to the SFO if the Commission believes there has been fraud). A statutory secrecy clause basicly signals that the government does not trust the OIA, or the Ombudsman, or the public. And that's not something we should accept from our government.