Red Alert

Is Amy Adams’ work programme a state secret?

Posted by on February 2nd, 2012

I’ve been looking forward to taking on Amy Adams, the new Minister of ICT. I’ve been impressed by her no- nonsense approach to things and her obvious intellect.

I was hoping for an opponent on the other side of the House who would grasp that technology had the capacity to transform our economy. I wasn’t holding out a lot of hope that she’d take seriously the importance of the social objectives of providing more access to technology, other than to pay lipservice, which is pretty much what Steven Joyce did.

But I was pretty appalled today to receive the incoming briefing document from the Ministry of Economic Development to the new Minsiter, which sets out all the major policy issues that lie ahead and provides a list of the pending decisions and actions over the next six months.

Great tracts of the former (policy issues) were removed from the document under the Official Information Act.

When it came to the decision and actions required over the next six months, there was a gaping two page  hole in the document.

VOTE COMMUNICATIONS: BRIEFING FOR THE INCOMING MINISTER 2011

MED1245438 Page 22 of 34

MED1284612

PENDING DECISIONS OR ACTIONS REQUIRED IN THE NEXT SIX MONTHS

[Withheld under sections 9(2)(f)(iv) and 9(2)(g)(i) of the Official Information Act 1982]

blank blank blank………

I’ve talked to a few industry people about this today. It’s unprecedented I think. Highly unusual and you’ve got to ask what on earth is so secretive about Minister Adams’ workplan and pending decisions that they all need to be kept secret?

Remember this is taxpayers money that funds Vote Communications. The signs are not good that the taxpayers will get the opportunity to scrutinise how their needs are best being met.

The intro by MED to the briefing reveals that the three big issues are these:

  • The roll-out of the Ultra Fast Broadband and Rural Broadband initiatives
  • The free-up of 4G wireless frequencies
  • Cross sector ICT initiatives in the public service

What can be so sensitive about these issues that the discussion and debate around decision-making can’t be held in public.

The previous Minister Steven Joyce maintained an arrogant and unresponsive approach to the public, and now it appears that Amy Adams may do the same.

When you make something secret you should have a good reason.  The public must be reassured that decisions being made by this Minister are not favouring commercial interests over the public good.

Hopefully an OIA will shine some sunlight on this.


12 Responses to “Is Amy Adams’ work programme a state secret?”

  1. The Stepper says:

    Clare – can I ask how you think a request under the OIA will “shine some sunlight on this”? The information has already been withheld under the OIA – specifically the “free and frank advice” provisions – making a further request redundant. All you can do at this point is complain to the Ombudsman.

  2. Gregor W says:

    Quite likely they are ‘Commercial in confidence’ and therefore, not suitable for public submission at this juncture.

  3. marsman says:

    Secrecy seems to be par for the course with Shonkey’s ‘Government’.

  4. Dave says:

    With respect when did the last Labour Government ever hold policy discussions “in public”???. We have here yet another example of Labour’s do as I say (but not what I do (or did)” mentality. BTW how is any of this going to help the people of South Dunedin pay their bills?

  5. Clare Curran says:

    @The Stepper Can’t go to the ombudsman until have had request for info under the OIA denied. The docs were released via Ministers. Amy Adams is now on record saying
    it was with held because of “commercial sensitivity, and information in relation to national security.”

    It appears her whole work plan for the next six months fall into this category. Not sure quite how she’ll ge thte work done if she can’t talk about it.

    A bit of a farce.

    http://www.itnews.com.au/News/289147,new-nz-it-minister-accused-of-8220extraordinary-secrecy8221.aspx

  6. Clare Curran says:

    @Dave not sure what you’re talking about. Labour doesn’t with hold such information. Labour engages in public debate. Always has. In the last term Labour developed its OpenLabour policy in a public online forum. Ground breaking. We have now created an open govt spokesperson (me)

    I am also the spokesperson for ICT (and Broadcasting, and disability issues. Gives me a reason to discuss these things don’t you think?

  7. Augie says:

    The BIM reflects the officials’ view of what the Minister’s priorities should be, and is largely written before the new Minister is appointed. They are not necessarily the new Minister’s priorities.

  8. Nathan Mills says:

    Sorry, but are you telling us that you KNEW that the information was deemed of “commercial sensitivity, and information in relation to national security.”, yet didn’t mention this in your original post questioning why this information was withheld, then become indignant when anyone questions your openness?

  9. Clare Curran says:

    @Nathan
    No I did not know the information was (as Adams is quoted)”deemed of commercial sensitivity … before I wrote my post.

    I dispute that a new Minister’s entire decision-making programme for at least the first six months of her new job could fall into such a category.

    And Nathan, bear in mind that the opposition’s “indignance” as you describe it, is actually the only real voice which is questioning the government’s decision-making and extraordinary secrecy. Would you have us muzzled too?

  10. Nathan Mills says:

    So, should it be somehow preferable that you made no effort whatsoever to establish any detailed information on the reason for withholding information before blowing up wholesale over it?

    Look, I’m not in any way shape or form suggested the opposition should be muzzled, and can’t see how you got that from what I said, but I’d just hope you’d spend at least a single minute of time doing research on an issue before posting about it.

    Myself, I found the review of the national universal postal service to be of more interest. Less delivery days for NZ Post? The end of Saturday deliveries?

  11. Clare Curran says:

    @ Nathan Feel free to share any information you have. The only way to get it (unless you have some sort of special access) is to make an OIA request. If it’s refused, go to the Ombudsman. Thought that had been made clear.

    If you look at the previous BIM for ICT released in November 2008 http://beehive.govt.nz/sites/all/files/Communications_and_IT_BIM.pdf

    you’ll see nothing was redacted(that I can see). The two pages of pending decisions were quite frank. I cannot see what is so commercially sensitive that the country can’t be told that it’s a matter for decision-making.