Labour’s ‘Transparency Drive’ Falters

Claire Trevett claims that the government is faltering in its determination to be ‘open and transparent’. I assume that she has had a total memory fade when it came to Clare Curran, Derek Handley, Karel Sroubek, Ritchie Hardcore and so on. Still, it all adds to my theory that, even to a totally fawning and sycophantic media, the gloss is beginning to come off this hapless government. Maybe the Koolaid is not as potent as it once was.

Ministers are open to the Official Information Act and the questions of the Opposition on anything they say or do in their capacity as a minister, but they are immune from probing if they had a different hat on.

Two examples of convenient hat changes have arisen in recent times.
One was in a query from National Party MP Amy Adams for details of discussions Finance Minister Grant Robertson had with the Deputy Prime Minister about National’s pre-Budget access to Treasury’s website.
Robertson replied that there had been no conversations with the Deputy Prime Minister, but he had conversed with the Leader of NZ First.
Both are Winston Peters, but Robertson then ignored the rest of the request, presumably on the grounds Adams had not asked about the leader of NZ First.
That is pure game playing for the sake of it.

Avoiding answers on a technicality indicates that despite its pledge to be the gold standard of accountability, even this Government will do the minimum required to be transparent where it suits.

And that is the point. All politicians, and all governments may have played these games, but it is only this government that has promised to always be ‘open and transparent’. Playing these games, of which they do as much as, if not more than other governments, prove that they are far from open and transparent. This is just another failure to add to the exceptionally long list of failures that this government has achieved so far.

The second instance was around PM Jacinda Ardern’s use of lobbyist Gordon Jon Thompson as her interim chief of staff when she first went into government.
Thompson went off active duty from his lobbying firm – Thompson Lewis – while he was setting up Ardern’s office, a time period in which he also received Cabinet papers and appointed key staff.

At no time did Thompson disclose to Ardern who his clients were – the clients for whom he would be returning to work once he finished in Ardern’s office.
The general gist of Ardern’s defence was that Thompson was a mate of hers and so could be trusted.

What a naive fool our prime minister is. Does she really believe that her ‘mate’ will not use the information gained while working in her office to his own advantage? He is a company director, and his first responsibility is to the company and its shareholders. The Companies Act 1993 requires such prudence.

It highlights the difficulty politicians have in applying the “if the shoe was on the other foot” test.
They tend to take the assumption everybody will see the “other side” as a bit dodgy, while they can get away with the same thing because they are beyond reproach.

This government is not beyond reproach. Not by a long way, although they are already way too arrogant to see it.

National-aligned commentators have argued that had National employed one of its friendly lobbyists in the same circumstances, there would have been a riot of raised eyebrows.
They are not wrong.

Key often stood accused of hiding behind his hat of National Party leader or private citizen.
But Key was also the Prime Minister who pushed through one of the biggest developments in accountability thus far – opening up the spending of ministers and, to a lesser extent, MPs to scrutiny.
Since 2009, the public have been able to see not only how much ministers are spending overall, but exactly what they use their credit cards for.

A Newspaper.

So the previous government actually increased transparency and accountability, and the current government, while claiming to be the most ‘open and transparent’ government ever, do exactly the opposite, with lies, obfuscation and downright dodgy accusations of illegal actions on the part of the opposition; when they knew full well that there was no such thing.

This government comes across to me as the most bitter and angry government of all time; but I put that down to the fact that they are simply incapable of actually doing any of the things they promised to do. The only way they can make themselves look good is to snarl at the opposition, and try to make them look bad instead.

It isn’t working. And if even Claire Trevett can see this government for what it truly is, then they are in trouble.

Must be time for another baby photo. Oh – guess what! Neve turns 1 this weekend. Brace yourselves…