Tuesday, March 28, 2023

More Labour secrecy

In July 2022, the then-Minister for Public Services, Chris Hipkins, promised that he would reduce the number of secrecy clauses in new legislation. Today the government has introduced not one, but two bills that strengthen secrecy at the expense of transparency.

The first is the Resale Right for Visual Artists Bill. The bill establishes a resale right for visual artists, and empowers the government to appoint a collection agency to manage it. The collection agency performs statutory functions, which will be monitored by a government ministry. However, if that Ministry doesn't do its job, or paints a pretty picture because otherwise they would be admitting failure, there will be no way of checking independently whether those functions are performed properly, because it won't be subject to the OIA.

The second is the Integrity Sport and Recreation Bill, which revamps the law around doping in sports. This creates a new agency to replace Drug Free Sport New Zealand, and that agency will be subject to the Ombudsmen Act, and hence the OIA. However, the bill includes a secrecy clause requiring it to keep information related to complaints confidential except under certain specified circumstances. There's a clear public interest in this agency being able to receive information on a confidential basis. And that public interest is already met by s9(2)(ba) of the OIA. Meaning that this clause is a perfect example of the unnecessary secrecy Hipkins falsely promised to get rid of.

So despite a promise from the now Prime Minister, Labour's thirst for secrecy seems unquenched. I'll be submitting against both these bills, urging they be dumped unless the public's right to freedom of information is protected. You should too.

Correction: Section on the Integrity Sport and Recreation Bill removed. I'd managed to overlook s38(2)(c), which would allow the Commission to disclose information if it " is required to disclose the information under any other legislation (including the Privacy Act 2020 and the Official Information Act 1982)". Which is exactly the sort of clause I've been campaigning for in these things. So, we only need to submit against one bill, not two.