Thursday, May 04, 2023

Parliament needs to be subject to the OIA

In Aotearoa we have democracy. That means not just elections, but a government which is constantly accountable to the people, and which justifies itself on an ongoing basis. One of the ways this happens in practice is that when a Minister or official makes a statutory decision, we get to see the reasons and the evidence - either as a matter of course, or by using the Official Information Act. That helps ensure that decisions are made lawfully and correctly and that people are doing their jobs properly.

But Ministers aren't the only people making statutory decisions. As we all learned yesterday, the decision on whether to apply s55 of the Electoral Act - Labour's shitty anti-party-hopping law - is a statutory one. But unlike other cases, there's no transparency. Unlike government agencies, Parliament is not subject to the Official Information Act. Which means that the Speaker can make a seemingly nonsensical decision - that someone is no longer a member of a political party, but is somehow still an MP - and we have no way of judging whether that decision was correct, or whether it is an abuse of office. Likewise, because Parliament is not subject to the OIA, we can't confirm or refute the claims that a second letter was delivered to the Speaker, which was subsequently withdrawn. And this has practical effects: without evidence, people can't use the courts to correct an incorrect decision and hold the decision-maker to account.

This isn't good enough. Parliament must be made subject to the Official Information Act to ensure public confidence in the Speaker's statutory decisions. Nothing else will do.