Monday, August 29, 2022

More labour "transparency"

Back in June, Labour passed the Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Act 2022, restructuring and centralising the health system. One of the consequences of this? Reduced transparency:

The new national health organisation is being accused of secrecy and spin - and keeping too much behind closed doors.

Before Te Whatu Ora was created in July, the 20 district health boards it replaced held monthly meetings, with open agendas, that anyone could attend.

But Te Whatu Ora releases only a brief summary of its board meeting agendas - and no media or public are allowed in.

All the new bodies are subject to the OIA via the Ombudsmen Act, but the old open meeting provisions (based on LGOIMA) weren't replicated. Its easy to see how: DHBs evolved from local health boards, so the LGOIMA provisions were adapted. But central government doesn't think about that, and doesn't view opennness as a core responsibility (despite a clear requirement in the Public Service Act to do so). And the result is that we've lost opennness that we had before. Labour's centralisation has resulted in more secrecy (which sounds like a good reason to oppose it in general). Having board chair Rob Campbell saying he opposed transparency because he’s not interested in providing “occupational therapy for journalists” just makes it clear how contemptuous Labour is of the open government it promised, and how deeply ugly and undemocratic their attitudes to transparency are.

As for how to fix it, the Pae Ora Act could be amended to include the old open meeting provisions for this agency. Alternatively, a broader Open Government Meetings law could be drafted up, to apply those provisions to all Crown Entity and inter-departmental boards and other entities. People like Campbell would probably shit themselves in rage at that suggestion. And that in itself sounds like a very good reason to do it.