Monday, August 15, 2022

Absurd and offensive

RNZ had a piece this morning about Waka Kotahi's plans for smart speed cameras allowing things like point-to-point average speed tickets and so on. There are obvious privacy issues here, which waka Kotahi seems to have completely ignored, having signed a contract before they were even investigated, let alone addressed. But what actually caught my eye was that the information was that the information was obtained under the OIA, but

Waka Kotahi refuses to specify the total cost of the camera system and new tolling system, saying this was to protect "ministers, members of organisations, officers, and employees from improper pressure or harassment".
Which is a gross misuse of s9(2)(g)(ii). Why? Because that clause is basicly saying "we think the requester or someone they pass the information to is going to do something improper and illegal to one of our staff". According to the Ombudsman's guidelines, it requires the agency to identify a specific threat, to specific individuals, which will seriously interfere with them doing their jobs and be so likely and severe as to justify withholding. Basicly intimidation, death threats, and stabbing territory. These things sadly do happen, and where actual risks are identified, withholding is justified. But the claim that information about costs meets this threshold is as absurd as it is offensive (and that's even before we consider the public interest in accountability for the spending public money).

So what is Waka Kotahi actually worried about? Most likely criticism. But the Ombudsman is crystal clear that "ill considered or irritating criticism or unwanted publicity" does not meet the required threshold.

This is where transparency has descended to under "the most open, most transparent Government that New Zealand has ever had": absurd, offensive, and blatantly unlawful decisions from a government agency which clearly does not care about the law, or fear the Ombudsman. As for who is responsible, the answer is Labour. They're the government, they set the tone on transparency for government agencies. And the tone they set is one of paranoia, secrecy, and compulsive arse-covering. There's a mention in Gaurav Sharma's facebook rant about the PM's chief of staff telling him "do not give anything in writing and do not expect anything in writing. Everything can be OIA’ed." Which is wrong - party communications are clearly not "official information" and not subject to the Act - but its an example of how the government views transparency at the highest levels. The fish rots from the head. And Labour is clearly rotten.