Red Alert

Accountability? You be the judge?

Posted by on November 16th, 2009

One of the main reasons I stood for Parliament was because I believed we need to do some things differently. Here’s one of them.

I stand on the record as clearly in favour of much more open-ness and transparency in answering written questions, oral questions and Official Information Act requests. If Ministers just gave us (the people) the information we requested it wouldn’t all seem so tricky and agenda-laden.

Yes. We’re in opposition. But we can stand for change. I do. There’s an extraordinary sea-change occurring around the world in making government information more accessible and transparent. Once you do that, you begin to break down the barriers between people and politicians. That’s my mission.

So read the answers provided to me by Communications & IT Minister Steven Joyce to these questions and make your own decisions about the accountability of this government.

I posted these questions several weeks ago. It matters because structural separation of Telecom is critical to not only the future of our telecommunications industry, but also to the core infrastructure of our future highway; ultrafast broadband. There’s enormous public interest here. Steven Joyce must not only be seen to be accountable, he must be accountable to the New Zealand public. Labour understands this. It’s not all about politics.

I’ll keep pursuing this issue because it matters.  It’s just one of many issues.  And it’s disturbing. The bit I find most disturbing is where he talks about a “requirement” for structural separation of Telecom. I didn’t mention that word in any of my questions. It’s as though it is a way for Joyce to evade the question. Is this what we expect of our government?

All questions lodged on 23/10
All answers received on 3/11
All questions addressed to Steven Joyce, Minister, Communications & IT

To read the questions and answers click here.

1. Question: What correspondence, if any, has he received or sent, listed by correspondent and date, about possible structural separation of Telecom?

Answer Text: I have not received or sent any correspondence about possible structural separation of Telecom.

2. Question: What meetings has he attended, if any, where possible structural separation of Telecom has been raised; on what dates were those meetings and who were the attendees?

Answer Text: Please see the replies to questions for written answer 15833
(2009) and 15837 (2009).

3. Question: Has he discussed possible structural separation of Telecom with the Prime Minister or any of his Ministerial colleagues; if so, when and with whom?

Answer Text: I have had a number of discussions with the Prime Minister and Ministerial colleagues about the Government’s ultra-fast broadband initiative and the possible participation of Telecom. A requirement for structural separation of Telecom has not been proposed in those discussions.

4. Question: Has the Minister ever discussed possible structural separation with any Telecom representatives; if so, who were the discussions with and when did they occur?

Answer Text: I have had a number of discussions with Telecom representatives about the Government’s ultra-fast broadband initiative and the possible participation of Telecom. A requirement for structural separation of Telecom has not been proposed in the discussions.

5. Question: What briefing papers, if any, listed by title and date, has he received about possible structural separation of Telecom?

Answer Text: I have not received any briefing papers about possible structural separation of Telecom.

6. Question: Has he ever suggested or recommended structural separation to any Telecom representatives; if so, who were the discussions with and when did they occur?

Answer Text: No.

7. Question: Is he in favour of the structural separation of Telecom?

Answer Text: I am neither for or against structural separation of Telecom. Structural separation is a matter that is entirely up to Telecom.


16 Responses to “Accountability? You be the judge?”

  1. labourfan says:

    [Your ban expires Feb 8th - admin]

  2. Spud says:

    Goodluck with the broadband thing.

  3. John Spavin says:

    I watched/listened to question time during Labour’s last 3 terms. Your Speaker routinely accepted evasion and even complete refusal on the part of Labour ministers to answer oral questions. Hunt or Wilson, no difference, both craven toadies, not doing their job on my (Joe public’s) behalf. They asked only that the minister ‘address’ the question. It seemed at times as though a loud ministerial passing of wind would have met the test. I will sympathise (or not) with your predicament after Labour’s next term and see how your party behaves when you have control again. Last time, to put it charitably, you were lacking.

  4. Adam says:

    Has he been talking about something which may be considered structural separation, but that’s not the jargon he uses?
    Your questions were of the fishing trip variety, which in my experience only work if the person on the other end intends to dump the documents anyway. Far better to determine a document actually exists and go looking.

  5. Clare Curran says:

    Steven Joyce and John Key are on record as meeting with Telecom recently. A decision is imminent on how the government’s $1.5 billion broadband roll-out will occur and who will roll it out. The industry is watching anxiously as there are fears that Telecom is using its influence to cement a monology arrangement, which is not in the interests of the NZ public or the telecommunications industry.

    Broadband is a piece of core infrastrcuture. The role that government plays is critical. This government isn’t letting on what role they think Telecom should have.

    There’s a massive debate about these issues happening in Australia and the Australian Govt are clear they want Telstra to structurally separate. And they’ll legislate to do so.

    That’s why I think Steven Joyce should be more open about his government’s intentions and what role they believe Telecom should/could have.

    I am a new MP. I believe there should be more open-ness in answering questions. It’s that simple.

  6. Draco T Bastard says:

    Broadband is a piece of core infrastrcuture. The role that government plays is critical

    Yes, the government should own and maintain it as a state monopoly. It’s the only efficient option.

    I believe there should be more open-ness in answering questions. It’s that simple.

    All government findings and communications should be open to public scrutiny at all times.

  7. Nevyn says:

    There are a couple of points here.

    Critics of Labour may be right in their thinking. Hell, my first correspondence with Clare went much the same way. I can’t say I was happy with Labour’s last term in office especially towards the end. I was especailly unhappy that I couldn’t decide on a party where I felt the NZ public would be respresented with NZ public’s needs in mind. I was even more aghast when the Mt Albert election happened (I happen to live in Mt Albert) and the choices seemed to come down to slogans and incompetance (I especailly hated Russel Norman’s slogan – “For more muscle, Vote Russel).

    Despite this, I don’t think the loop un-bundling would ever have happened under National.

    But this still doesn’t address the issue of transparency in government. Obama has made some great strides on this front. NZ – we’re supposed to be progressive. We’re supposed to be at the forefront of this sort of thing. We were the first to have woman voters. We were the first to get eftpos.

    So with Clare, a new MP, who raises issues like this, I thank you. It can’t be easy being as progressive as NZ really should be in a party that has not been in the past.

  8. millsy says:

    “Yes, the government should own and maintain it as a state monopoly. It’s the only efficient option.”

    Not PC, but quite right. Labour was actually made an offer by Telecom to buy its network, however it wasant taken up.

  9. Nathan Mills says:

    ??? TBH, I don’t get your problem with these answers!

    Has he had correspondence with Telecom or any colleagues regarding structural separation of the company? He states and reiterates no, several times, to all of your questions. Is your issue that you think he’s lying?

  10. Jeremy Harris says:

    Mr Joyce has a lot of tricky Auckland transport questions from Darien Fenton and David Shearer I’m very interested to see the answer of… This doesn’t bode well for straight responses…

  11. Clare Curran says:

    @Nathan. I think he’s evaded the questions and I think that’s clear. Have another look. And ask someone in the telecommunications industry what they think

  12. Nevyn says:

    This was, at one point, an issue that Labour were looking into. If there has been absolutely no discussion on this from National and instead just talks about how the government can throw more money at Telecom, then we need to step back and ask ourselves, who is the current government best representing here?

    It would be within our best interests to have a structural separation of Telecom. Look at the internet plans out there today. Do any of them differ? Can you honestly say that any of them are cheap for what you’re getting? How many times have you had to explain “data caps” to those overseas?

    Structural seperation wouldn’t get rid of these problems but would start allowing the flexibility to start addressing some of these issues.

    Not good for Telecom, great for us.

    How’s this for a Labour campaign :- “We will represent the people of New Zealand”….

  13. Nathan Mills says:

    Nope, still not seeing it! You’ve fished for answers, and not got what you expected and wanted, so now you’re accusing him of “evading” the questions. It’s a lose/lose for him, no matter what he says, you’re not going to be convinced right?

  14. jabba says:

    [deleted, off-topic]

  15. Herodotus says:

    After 1 year in opposition, I take it you can appreciate the frustration that many of us had with hearing answers in question time from Lab ministers. A time in opposition hopefully will make you appreciate what it was like sitting on the other side, and how the rules were administered by previous speakers. Especially that the question only has to be addessed. L.Smith for all that he has been thro on the opp benches is displaying a remarkable neutrality as speaker. Nat has allowed a greater transparently than was displayed in the last few years.
    Clare I would be interested in your views on this or any other Lab MP, just to balance things out or show where I am wrong.

  16. visionstream contractor says:

    I am a [forced to finacially] visionstream contractor and i recommend strongly that TELECOM AND CHORUS[who are one as we who work uder them know ]should be completeley separated,as we now can see the BULLYING THAT HAPPENING from them ,they want contractors to do more for less,just like everybody predicted a few months ago.Lets face it,who does all the planning and installation,not TELECOM,but the subcontractors downers,transfield and visionstream.ALL that TELECOM WANTS is the profits for its FATCAT shareholders,What have TELECOM done since 1999 to now,not just for rural customers,but for customers living on the outer rim of every town city,that lives just over 5km from an exchange,NOTHING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING,these costomers are still neglected in the BROADBAND deployment.We speak from first hand experience as we work in the network everyday.