Don’t listen to the spin, listen to “The Edge”

You might be asking what U2’s guitarist has to do with anything?

Well, I’m not talking about him…I’m talking about Graeme Edgeler and he has come out against the government’s position over the written questions issue…an issue he blames the government for actually creating.

So, what questions have National MPs been asking? ?

?8560 (2017).?Hon Mark Mitchell?to the?Defence (Minister ? Ron Mark)?(16 Nov 2017): What meetings, if any, has the Minister attended between 26 October 2017 and 15 November 2017, including subject, attendees, and agenda items??

It?s the type of thing any beat reporter probably does once a month via the OIA: ask the Minister of Health, or Education, or Defence who they have met with in the last month (or in this case, the first 3 weeks or so since being a Minister), or what reports they?ve received in the last month, and then 20 working days later once you received the reply, put in further requests about reports or meetings of particular interest. It is an entirely reasonable question for the opposition defence spokesperson to ask

It was a rather simple request for a list of meetings and topics, the sorts of questions you’d expect to be answered easily by the production of a diary. But the Government refused to answer:

Hon Ron Mark?(Defence (Minister ? Ron Mark)) replied: I meet regularly, formally and informally, with officials and various stakeholders. A range of issues are discussed. If the Member would like to be more specific I will endeavour to answer the question.

You will get sick of reading that response. All government ministers cut/pasted that.

Undeterred, National then asked about a smaller time period ?four days, less than a working week. Chris Hipkins has clearly directed ministers to give the same response. On top of that the fools respond asking questioners to be more specific. National MPs duly oblige and now ask about a single day.?Still, Ministers have refused to answer:

8393 (2017).?Chris Bishop?to the?Police (Minister ? Stuart Nash)?(16 Nov 2017): Did the Minister have any meetings in his capacity as Minister of Police on October 27, if so, what people and organisations did he meet with on that day, where were the meetings held and what were the main items of business?

Hon Stuart Nash?(Police (Minister ? Stuart Nash)) replied: I meet regularly, formally and informally, with officials and various stakeholders. A range of issues are discussed. If the Member would like to be more specific I will endeavour to answer the question.

So having refused to answer about their meetings over a month, a week or even a day, now Bishop has been forced to ask about specific hours within a day.

11778 (2017).?Chris Bishop?to the?Minister of Police?(22 Nov 2017): Did the Minister have any meetings in his capacity as Minister of Police on October 27 between 8 and 9am, if so, what people and organisations did he meet with at that time; where were the meetings held and what were the main items of business?

The Ministers asked that National become more specific and National obliged.

So far, Bishop?s hour-by-hour requests only cover the first two days the Minister of Police was in office, although the essentially rejected day-by-day requests covered several weeks. The Minister should consider himself lucky.?Far from being aghast that National MPs have asked ?a whopping 6254 written questions?, I am instead surprised by their forbearance. They are being denied information they ought to have. By rights, they should have asked more.

Ministers are doing this under orders, presumably from Chris Hipkins as he is Leader of the House. It is arrogant, and normally these sort of behaviours takes a few years to sink in. Labour seems to have brought it in with them and they have it in bottles for sale at Copperfields.

Ministers have only themselves to blame that National MPs have had to ask questions about what they?ve been doing each week, each day and each hour. It?s because they haven?t told them (and us) already.

Information about who a Minister has met, or what reports they have received are matters of public interest.?While the explicit content? of some meetings, or some briefings? may be properly withheld, the existence of the meetings themselves will not, just like the existence of arrests and shootings in Baltimore.

Clare Curran has recently been appointed Minister for Open Government. She should take the opportunity to propose to Cabinet the automatic release of ministerial schedules.

Curran has campaigned strongly for OIA reform in opposition. But she is ever the party’s loyal servant. I expect she will forget everything she has said in the past about such reforms and toe the party line…which is to delay, obfuscate and hide.

While there is no limit on the number of written questions that the opposition can ask, the opposition should not ask 6254 written questions in a month. But the reason this is so is that they shouldn?t have to.

The asking of a large number of very specific questions is an entirely proportional response to the refusal of Ministers to seriously answer reasonable questions.?Hopefully this reprisal again has its intended effect, and Ministers should realise that they were wrong to have refused to seriously answer the more general questions National MPs had asked.

They’ve got to be hiding something with this level of obfuscation.

 

-Public Address

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