Monday, August 07, 2023

Crown Law's counter-productive secrecy

Over the weekend, the Sunday Star-Times reported on another case of arrogant secrecy from the government. Judges in this country enjoy all sorts of perks in addition to their formal salary. But we plebs are not allowed to know the details:

The Government is refusing to make public a suite of taxpayer-funded privileges for the country’s judges.

The judiciary has one of the most generous pensions in the public service, with their salaries padded by nearly 40%.

But they’re also entitled to things like chauffeurs, housing allowances, and even subsidised school uniforms.

The benefits are all laid out in what’s colloquially known as ‘the red book’ of judicial entitlements. The Sunday Star-Times asked for a copy – but the request was denied, with no explanation.

...which just reeks of a privileged elite trying to keep the dirty peasantry out of "their" business. Which is really our business, because it is public business.

There are very good reasons for judges to be paid well and enjoy generous retirement packages. Stopping them from behaving like Clarence Thomas is the obvious one. There may be good reasons for the various perks (I can see public benefit in sabbaticals - professional development - for example, and paying people to move cities for work is perfectly reasonable). But there's absolutely no good reason for secrecy about it. This is public money, and we have a right to know how it is being spent, so we can see if it is being spent well.

Crown Law has done us no favours here with its OIA games. Rather than promoting trust in a core public institution, they have instead created suspicion and undermined its legitimacy. And if judges find themselves viewed as greedy rorters troughing it under cover of secrecy as a result, then they know where to point the finger.