Red Alert

Archive for the ‘#OpenLabourNZ’ Category

Why a spy-free internet should be a human right

Posted by on June 14th, 2014

Last Wednesday I had an opinion piece published in the Dominion Post titled Why a spy-free internet should be a human right. Unfortunately it hasn’t been put online (still) so I can’t link to it.

However I have posted below the fuller version of the piece I submitted to the Dom Post. An edited version was published.

New Zealand: a nation of  digital pioneers or laggards

On 10 June 2013 Labour made the first public statement of concern just days after news broke that the equivalent of the GCSB had been routinely monitoring US citizens’ phone calls, texts and social media activity. Our voice was joined by hundreds of thousands of Kiwis as the National Government, abetted  by Peter Dunne, pushed two pieces of law through Parliament to provide the GCSB with wide ranging invasive powers which extend into all of our technology companies and reduce their ability to innovate without asking for permission first.

We New Zealanders place a very high value on our open democracy. But without privacy, there can be no democracy. How can you even consider dissent when the state is listening to everything you say? Of course security also is necessary for democracy, but there needs to be a balance between them. The recent revelations about surveillance show this balance has been ignored.

John Key has told us that security is more important than anything, but he didn’t say why. Through Snowden, we now know about the mind-boggling reach of state surveillance into citizens’ homes. New Zealand’s link through the five eyes network raises questions about our role in the US-led global surveillance network and the impact of that surveillance on the relationship between the New Zealand state and its own citizens. It is frightening that this has been done in the name of security by the free world.

Half of New Zealand’s population has a Facebook account. Three quarters of households have an Internet connection and 60% of us have smartphones. We are becoming completely reliant on the Internet and the technologies that make it work. Our financial systems rely on data storage and secure electronic transactions; our personal data is stored and manipulated by companies and government, yet we now find that the information security we depend on for the security of our data and our economy as been deliberately undermined to make surveillance easier.

Labour says that access to the Internet should be a right just like the right to free expression. This is more than rhetoric. Any prospective government in 2014 should make this policy, and must make the internet off-limits to government interference.

Our current Bill of Rights Act dates back to 1990 when almost no-one had heard of the Internet, let alone used it. How things have changed! Labour has proposed a Digital (or Internet) Bill of Rights setting out what we can all do online. The Greens also have proposed declaratory piece of legislation along the same lines. The Internet Party has proposed reforming the Privacy Act, reviewing surveillance laws and strengthening human rights protection and Internet freedom. All these approaches have merit and we want to see a discussion among New Zealand’s excellent legal, tech and human rights-focused community. It is essential that we protect citizens’ privacy, encourage innovation and keep New Zealand a progressive country with a responsible approach to its own national security. We should take care to get it right, but we should not take too long.

These things will have a profound impact on society, and position us as a pioneer or as a laggard in the digital world. A Labour-led government will drive and implement a digital rights framework. We will do this alongside an inquiry into our surveillance agencies, in particular the GCSB, and we will recast our security laws. We say that our citizens should not be exposed to blanket mass surveillance.

The National Party and the right are disinterested, perhaps deliberately because this discussion leads to uncomfortable questions about surveillance and privacy. But the parties on the left have the public’s ears and their hearts.

New Zealand has always been a forward-looking nation. Recognising Internet access as a fundamental human right and enshrining it as part of our civil society is our next progressive step. As Sir Tim Berners Lee, creator of the world wide web, recently said, “unless we have an open, neutral internet…we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture.” If we don’t act to avoid the digital divide becoming entrenched we risk lack of digital access resulting in second-class digital citizenship.

New Zealand would certainly not be alone in enacting such a bill or declaration. Brazil as already adopted one. There is a bipartisan movement in the US Congress to do so. The movement is becoming global, and New Zealand must be part of it. Labour envisages a dynamic public interaction with the progression of rights-friendly digital legislation.

By forging a rights-friendly approach to the Internet and data issues, New Zealand will establish its reputation as a digital hub for innovation. More tech companies will be attracted here and more start-ups that need digital connectivity will be able engage effectively with the rest of the world. New Zealand’s emerging digital economy relies on its reputation as a trustworthy place to do business and to promote innovation. Secretive surveillance laws and uncertain rights around the Internet are a threat to this. Labour is committed to match security laws with strong privacy protections and to protect our civil liberties.

Across the globe people are demanding the right to access the internet, the right to privacy, free speech and to a neutral internet.  Without these there can be no open government, no good democracy, no connected communities and no diversity of culture. Just as the Internet transcends national boundaries, a Labour-led government will work with other countries to agree a common set of principles and rights on the Internet. We challenge the other parties in New Zealand to agree to do likewise. We embrace the multi-stakeholder approach of our very own Internet NGO, InternetNZ, which was worked to ensure a framework that keeps governments and corporates at arms length from controlling the Internet.

An international standard, which articulates not so much the values of Western democracy, but the values and importance that underlie an open internet. Is not this truly new and ground-breaking evolutionary thinking and does it not show how the internet is transforming the world away from traditional notions of governance?

Let us recast ourselves as the pioneers of digital thinking and not remain laggards. Our small country has leapt before into unchartered waters based on our shared beliefs in what is right. We can do it again.

TPP: Is this true?

Posted by on December 10th, 2013

Washington Trade Daily

Volume 21, Number 246 Tuesday, December 10, 2013 Trade Reports International Group

Closing In On a TPP Deal

Singapore – Trade ministers from the 12 members of the TransPacific Partnership pushed hard yesterday for convergence on three critical areas – intellectual property rights, state-owned enterprises and the environment – in an effort to finalize an agreement on modalities, WTD has learned (WTD, 12/9/13).

Except for a single member of the group, there is a general consensus to work on the basis of latest texts that departed from what was set out in last month’s Salt Lake City chief negotiators meeting, said participants familiar with the proceedings yesterday.

Australia, New Zealand and Canada, among others, dropped their objections to the high-standard disciplines in intellectual property and came on board by agreeing to the modified text.

Effectively, there is consensus on the intellectual property dossier except for one developing country, WTD was told. The latest intellectual property draft is premised on very high standards regardless of differing levels of economic development among the participating countries. To enable developing countries to implement the WTO-plus standards, the draft provides a generous transition clause. But the 12 have yet to finalize how the transition period will be determined – whether on the basis of economic and social indicators prepared by the World Bank or another criterion, WTD was told.


On state-owned enterprises – relating particularly to small and medium enterprises – the TPP members are close to agreement, WTD was told. But several members have difficulties with the problem of “competitive neutrality” to mitigate distortions caused by subsidies and preferential treatment.

On the environment, the TPP trade ministers have overcome differences that arose in the Salt Lake City talks. WTD was told that the chapter is based broadly on US proposals.

The meeting – which will conclude today – will set the ground for finalizing a “modalities” text which will become the basis for further negotiations towards clinching the final TPP pact sometime next year, said participants. The “modalities” text on market access will depend to a great extent on what happens between the United States and Japan, which are still far apart on market access, particularly US access to Japan’s agricultural and automotive markets.

A final pact can be concluded after another two or three rounds, WTD.

TPP watch: why doesn’t NZ quantify its intellectual capital?

Posted by on November 17th, 2013

In 2012 the US produced this report :

Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy


Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are the principal means for establishing ownership rights to inventions and ideas, and provide a legal foundation by which intangible ideas and creations generate tangible benefits to businesses and employees.

Intellectual property (IP) protection affects commerce throughout the economy by: providing incentives to invent and create; protecting innovators from unauthorized copying; facilitating vertical specialization in technology markets; creating a platform for financial investments in innovation; supporting startup liquidity and growth through mergers, acquisitions, and IPOs; making licensing-based technology business models possible; and, enabling a more efficient market for technology transfer and trading in technology and ideas.

On April 11, 2012, the U.S. Commerce Department released a comprehensive report, entitled “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus,” which found that intellectual property (IP)-intensive industries support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion dollars to, or 34.8 percent of, U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

Pretty compelling stuff.

To my knowledge there is nothing comparable in New Zealand.

In 2012 a report Price Waterhouse Coopers produced a report for the NZ screen industry which found that the film and television industry’s total contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) was $2.78 billion, representing 1.4% of New Zealand’s total GDP.

This report was important (though it should be noted our film industry is under threat and under resourced). But it’s not the full picture.

Our growing tech industry, the total intellectual capital of our ideas and their conversion to export potential remains unquantified. Consequently, it’s hard to argue in hard facts when it comes to points of trade off in a trade deal so important as the TPP. THis doe not make the value of our ideas any less improtant though.

So what’s the government doing about it? Well it seems; a big fat nothing!

When the mega ministry MBIE came before the Commerce Select Committee earlier this year I asked them what work was being undertaken on treating New Zealand’s intellectual property as ” a sector” and what quantification was being done. They looked at me blankly and made noises about determining New Zealand’s compliance with our obligations under various international  trade and other agreements. In other words, our Ministry of Economic Development is only concerned with whether we protect other countries IP laws rather than thinking about how we can protect our own innovation industries against the multinational corporate interests.

That didn’t seem very smart to me. What do you think?


TPP watch: We must stand strong against the US on excessive IP demands

Posted by on November 15th, 2013

Yesterday Phil Goff laid out Labour’s position on the leaked IP chapter of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement

“The Government needs to stand up to the excessive and self-interested demands by US drug and entertainment multinationals in the TPP negotiations.

“The chapter on intellectual property shows that our negotiators are doing their best in opposing the demands of drug and entertainment moguls.

“We are supported by most other countries in doing that. The US appears isolated in its demands and will need to back down from them.

“Labour supports the protection of intellectual property and those who invest in research and development getting a fair return on that investment.  But we do not support big corporations being able to lock in excess profits at the expense of the consumer or to disadvantage small New Zealand companies. Patents and copyright should not be so excessive that they stymie innovation. They should not prevent the emergence of generic drugs to allow health care to be provided affordably to those in need.

Those are strong words and Labour means them.

The Government meanwhile is refusing to comment saying it doesn’t comment on leaks and downplaying any issues in the leaked text for New Zealand and talking about the wonderful upsides to NZ from the agreement.

This is despite the leaked text showing a huge gulf  between the United States and many of the other 12 countries including New Zealand. Among the contested issues are medicines, copyright and parallel importing.

We are heartened that the Kiwi negotiators are fighting for our interests as is evidenced by NZ’s position throughout the chapter. Our deep concerns lie in what may be traded off in the final stages of the negotiations. It is my belief that IP concessions not in NZ’s interests was always going to get traded away in the final round.

The TPP is not like other trade agreements. There are real risks for New Zealand’s ability to control our increasingly important digital economic development and protect our own intellectual capital while not ceding ground to the United States attempts to control content and information flow on the internet.

The 95-page, 30,000-word leaked IP Chapter lays out provisions to institute  a far-reaching, transnational legal and enforcement regime, modifying or replacing existing laws in TPP member states.

The Chapter’s subsections include agreements relating to patents (who may produce goods or drugs), copyright (who may transmit information), trademarks (who may describe information or goods as authentic) and industrial design.

The longest section of the Chapter – ’Enforcement’ – details new policing measures, with far-reaching implications for individual rights, civil liberties, publishers, internet service providers and internet privacy, as well as for the creative, intellectual, biological and environmental commons.

The US Model pushes for an aggressive and heavy-handed copyright regime. This has huge potential to harm the way New Zealand artists work and use the internet to connect with overseas markets. It has the potential to unfairly harm public rights and public respect for copyright, artists and their work.

The US Model includes a significant extension of Copyright Duration; internet termination as a penalty; making it illegal to bypass Technical Protection Measures (TPMs) so you can’t watch a DVD you legally purchased overseas; and restricting parallel imports so NZers would both lose access to many overseas works, and be forced to pay more for books, CDs and DVDs than the rest of the world.

New Zealand copyright protection of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works typically lasts until the end of the year the author dies plus an additional 50 years beyond that. Under the US Model however this could be extended to life plus 70 years. Sound recordings and films currently have 50 years of copyright protection in New Zealand from their year of publication, however the US Model could more than double that – up to 120 year Trade deals always come down to compromise. We must ensure that New Zealand’s position retains the ability to maintain and reform our own patent and copyright laws in the best interests of New Zealand.

We must not agree to a deal that results in stifled innovation in our ICT and creative industries   where multi-nationals have the power to block innovation growth.

And we must protect against an adverse impact on our libraries, universities and schools having access to content they can afford and reduced access to content, particularly in the digital environment.

A government that cannot control its own economic development cannot govern.

The leak of the text allows transparency into these negotiations and a public debate to occur on the impact of the US demands. We support that debate occurring before the talks are concluded.

We call on on the National Government to continue to back New Zealand negotiators in the talks to protect our economic future through our ability to innovate and a maintain sensible and balanced copyright framework.

Here’s a couple of good (but disturbing pieces) pieces to read on the implications of the leaked text

  • Dr Malcolm Rimmer writes that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will stifle innovation and put real limitations on our ability to govern ourselves. It is a monster and is too important a deal to be done in secret (written from an Australian perspective)
  • Sarah Putt of the NZ Institute of IT Processionals (IITP) writes that the leaked text shows that NZ’s hard fought for new patent law which excludes software from being patentable could be under threat.

The Government is very unwise to be refusing to engage with stakeholders directly affected by these heavy-handed provisions which will stifle innovation in New Zealand. One has to ask why. Is it because they were always going to be traded off?

How independent will Amy Adam’s Chorus probe be?

Posted by on November 13th, 2013

Today Labour said that an international expert should be brought in to conduct the independent assessment of Chorus’ financial position, to   counter ANY hint of undue influence or cronyism.

This Government has a history of using inquiries as whitewashes to provide cover for a course of action already determined, or to hide crucial information which may not reflect well on them.

We say the inquiry into Chorus’ position must be led by a fully independent international expert based on recommendations from regulators, the OECD and even the European Union. It’s my understanding that Amy Adams is not consulting on the terms of reference for this inquiry. This does NOT bode well.

The terms of reference for this assessment must include examination of the terms under which Chorus was created in the demerger of Telecom and any undertakings, formal or informal, which were given to Chorus at that time. They should be fully transparent and the assessment must be conducted with the utmost integrity in order to gain credibility and support.

The inquiry should determine whether there is evidence that the Government, MBIE or Crown Fibre Holdings misled the Chorus negotiators or gave them some indication or guarantee that the Government would hold copper prices on the original retail minus basis.

And given Chorus knew about the copper price drop as is evidenced in their first prospectus, what estimate did they include in the contract price?What estimates did MBIE do? Did Chorus know about these estimates? Did the Commerce Commission get asked?

Demerger debt should be investigated. As should Chorus’s income and expenditure estimates at the time of demerger.

What was the estimated average connection cost that Chorus factored into its UFB tender bid? And what has been the actual connection cost to date?

What indications or guarantees were given to shareholders by Chorus?

The Government’s contractual terms with Chorus to deliver ultrafast broadband have never been made public. Given that it’s taxpayers’ money at stake, it’s time they were.

Taxpayers need to know that due diligence was undertaken by MBIE and Crown Fibre Holdings on behalf of Steven Joyce and the rest of the government before the UFB contract was awarded to Chorus. Labour raised many issues and concerns at the time. Now’s the time for some sunlight.

Amy Adams goes into spin mode

Posted by on November 13th, 2013

Yesterday, after I provided hard evidence that both Chorus and the Government were well aware that the Commerce Commission had a well-signalled process for reviewing the copper broadband price after a three moratorium, despite both protesting they didn’t know, Amy Adams’ office went into spin mode.

After NBR published a piece based on my Red Alert post exposing the government and Chorus’s misinformation, her office emailed  NBR with supposed evidence that I had argued during the passage of the 2011 Telco Bill that copper services would go up. Yes I did. But Adams got the context wrong. My comments (and those of David Cunliffe and David Parker) related to the mandatory averaging of copper prices in Steven Joyce’s Bill. Many submitters argued (as we did) against this, saying it would disadvantage urban users.

I’ve attached the link to Hansard for the whole debate. If you can be bothered go and read the debate. It is interesting and parts of it will come back to haunt Steven Joyce and his government.

I’ve attached Labour’s full minority report on the legislation (from page 20) which includes a section titled mandatory averaging on copper pricing (page 25).

Labour’s comments about the impact of the averaging component of the legislation on copper prices had nothing to do with the Commerce Commission legal process contained in the bill to review price of copper broadband after a three year moratorium.

Probably best to get the facts right before you attack me Amy.


John Key’s record keeping

Posted by on November 8th, 2013

This is an example of the answers we receive by Ministers and the Prime Minister to written questions.

Is this deliberate or incompetent? Note he hasn’t said he has not discussed the matter, just that there are no records held by his office.

Question: Further to Parliamentary Written Question 10733 (2013) and subsequent correspondence, what are the dates and times of meetings, of which a record has been kept, in which the sale of Television NZ land to Sky City was discussed between 1 May 2013 and the present?

Portfolio: Prime Minister

Minister: Rt Hon John Key

Date Lodged:31/10/2013

Answer Text: There are no records held by my office of meetings, since 1 May 2013, in which the sale of TVNZ land to SkyCity was discussed.

Attachment: None

Date Received:08/11/2013

The right to know: Gerry Brownlee

Posted by on October 15th, 2013

This is the final instalment in the ministerial profiles as part of  The Right to Know series, in which the adequacy of Ministers responses to Official Information Act requests are put under scrutiny.

And we saved, if not the best, one of the worst, till last. Hon Gerry Brownlee, Leader of the House, Minister of Transport, Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery and Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission responded to our request to all Ministers asking for the number of OIA requests received between 1 January 2012 and 1 January 2013 with a fairly upfront account.

The redacted spread sheet included in his response allowed my team and I to distil some interesting conclusions. But there are a few caveats. The number of requests responded to after the 20 workings day time limit does not include extended requests as noted in the log. We have treated requests equally if they were late by two days or two months for the purposes of graphing, if you want specific lengths of time please do go and look at the original document.

You’ll also note we haven’t bothered to graph the requestors here although we do give Gerry credit for including some information about these in his spread sheet. We deemed it pointless to try to analyse these due to the lack of differentiation between MPs from political parties which would have made the data highly inaccurate.

So, have a look for yourselves: Feel free to offer rankings/make comparisons in the comments now we have profiled all the Ministers.

In my assessment these results are appalling. Just 34% of the total number of OIAs received were answered within 20 days.

Subtract transfers and extensions and it is still only 54% of all OIAs answered on time!

Bear in mind Mr Brownlee did not provide us with any information in order to differentiate between full release responses, partial releases or declines.

We’ve all read about the trials and tribulations Christchurch residents have had trying to extract information from the EQC, including the proposal of a charge of $24,000 on the Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network of Canterbury (WECAN) for a response to their OIA request.

Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove intervened and we are still hopeful those community members will get access to what they seek.

But with Ministers like Gerry Brownlee (or any of the 22 others we’ve profiled) setting the example, is it reasonable for Kiwis to think our Government is transparent and accountable? And if not, what do we need to do about it?

Stay tuned folks as this series will be continuing with a look at how our Ministries and Government departments respond to OIA requests coming up next.

I hope you agree that the data contained in these posts is important to build a picture of just how responsive and accountable our government representatives are to lawful requests for information.

The chilling effect of TICs

Posted by on October 14th, 2013

Update: The second reading of TICs is tomorrow. It seems likely the Govt will try to rush through the committee stages and third reading this week.If so, this is an extraordinary abuse of process, because there is almost no time to consider the impact of the Minister’s SOP and to undertake the debate that needs to be had. One fo the worst things about this Bill is the refusal to have meaningful and respectful discussions with the businesses which will be most affected, or to acknowledge the impact on NZ consumers. Please help to fight this Bill’s passage.

Tell Amy Adams what you think by emailing her at: or You can contact her on twitter @amyadamsMP

Amy Adams tonight released last minute amendments to the Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security Bill (TICs). The fact that she has introduced an SOP at such a late stage indicates she and her government is concerned that there are serious deficiencies with the Bill as it came back from the select committee.

However, her amendments are not substantive and appear to be window dressing. They reflect the hurried passage of this Bill, the lack of consultation with industry and the likely consequences on the privacy of Kiwi citizens and detrimental impact on NZ tech companies and their ability to innovate.

That she is introducing an SOP at all indicates that the National Govt majority on the committee did not, or would not, consider the implications of the Bill to NZ-based and internally-based tech companies.

In particular;
Amy Adams has now signalled there will be a more rigorous assessment of the costs and benefits, including the impact of the cost on the telecommunications company of requirements under the new law. In the Labour minority report we said: “Labour notes that subsequent submissions to the select committee by several network operators outlined potential significant annual operating costs and the potential capital expenditure costs. The committee did not seek advice on these supplementary submissions and the economic impact was therefore not taken into account. In our view this was negligent and irresponsible.”

The Govt’s majority select ctte refused to take account of the warnings raised by network operators of the impact on their business by this Bill. While she is now obviously acknowledging that there may well be an impact Amy Adams needs to specify exactly what a “more rigorous assessment of costs and benefits” will involve and where the Bill will reflect that.

Labour stands by our conclusion in the Minority Report that:
There are many reasons to oppose this Bill. It is ill-thought out, rushed and the government has refused to take account of core concerns raised by submitters. There has been no case made for the expanded powers of the GCSB and of Ministers.

Below is Labour’s Minority Report following the report back from the select committee. (more…)

The right to know: Bill English

Posted by on October 14th, 2013

The profile of Hon Bill English, Deputy  Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and MP for Clutha-Southland in the Right to know series, will be short and sweet.

As you know my team and I have been researching the adequacy of Ministers responses to Official Information Act requests. In March, we sent a request to all Ministers asking for the number of OIA requests received between 1 January 2012 and 1 January 2013, the number transferred, extended, responded to within the 20 working day limit, responded to late or not responded to at all.

Bill English’s response was surely one of the least forth coming we received. Evidently in his office “OIA requests are not filed or categorised in a manner that would enable the information to be easily identified”. The lack of information means we can’t say how many requests Mr English responded to late or simply didn’t respond to.

Bill English is the Minister who has supposedly pushed a transparency and open data agenda within government. He is to be applauded for his work around the Declaration of open and transparent government, which aims to provide a mechanism to release govt data for re-use. Pity his own Ministerial office doesn’t practice what it preaches.

Bill English’s inadequate and even misleading responses to written questions put to him are also deeply concerning. But that will be the subject of another post and watch that space.

The right to know: Tony Ryall

Posted by on October 12th, 2013

As we get to the end of this part of the blog series on the right to know; it’s time to take a look at Hon Tony Ryall, Minister of Health and for State Owned Enterprises.

Tony Ryall responded to our request in a table, as opposed to the redacted spread sheet provided by many of his colleagues. This limits our ability to draw conclusions as we are reliant on the figures the Minister provides rather than raw data. In particular, he left some gaping holes in the table and left us unable to tell how many of his responses were returned late, although he does state that all requests have been responded to!

You’ll note the figures don’t add up, so we have to assume that he has included many of the transferred requests as being responded to within the 20 day time limit imposed by the Act. In the table provided, the Minister has broken the figures down by portfolio but has not entered a figure for responses sent within 20 working days for his State Owned Enterprises portfolio. Since he transferred 18 out of a total 27 responses and extended the time limit for another 7 we can tentatively deduce that he responded to two requests late, without seeking an extension and absolutely no requests were responded to within 20 working days!

Tony Ryall also fronts up to having suggested a charge for the supply of information to one requestor and has provided us with a bit of a breakdown of who those requestors were.


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The right to know: Hekia Parata

Posted by on October 12th, 2013

The next Minister to be profiled in the Right to know series is Hon Hekia Parata, Minister of Education and Pacific Island Affairs.

As did many other respondents, Hekia Parata provided us with a redacted version of the spreadsheet log kept by her office. She also emphasised in her accompanying letter that this “may not be a complete, or accurate, reflection as this would require cross referencing each entry with each individual file…”

Along with uncertainty whether the log is 100% accurate, it is also evident that she regularly responds to requests late with only just over half the total number of responses sent within the 20 day statutory period. Her full response can be found here, and is well worth a look.

You’ll find a few, but there is one particularly flagrant example of the Minister’s disregard for the Official Information Act at the bottom of page one where a request from the Research and Advice Team (of an undisclosed organisation) was due on 10 May and actually responded to on 18 June!

I will place a caveat on the 10 requests we have classified as not having been responded to. There were multiple instances of an x appearing in the “Response Date” column which we have assumed to mean that for some reason that entry was not applicable. In some instances the request had been transferred or withdrawn but in other the rationale for the x was not so obvious.

The ten classified as “Not Responded to” however had no entry whatsoever in the ‘Response Date” column but the other columns are complete and as such we think it reasonable to conclude that these requests have not yet been responded to.

On the upside, Hekia Parata did provide some info about requestors:


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The right to know: Pita Sharples

Posted by on October 10th, 2013

We now take a look at Hon Pita Sharples, Minister of Māori Affairs, Associate Minister of Corrections and Education in the next instalment of The right to know series.

Pita Sharples provided us with a redacted copy of a spreadsheet  providing due dates, dates of response and notes for transferrals, refusals and extensions. We have given him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to extensions as his log does not note the new due date only the date of the extension request and the date of response. In the spirit of generosity we have not included any of these in the number of late responses however it is worth noting that many of the extensions requests were sent late or only just in the nick of time and some transferrals were sent well after the first ten days as stipulated in the Act.

All in all, Pita Sharples record is pretty dismal with 22% of his responses late, another 19% transferred and 17% declined in full! A clear demonstration of lack of regard for the legislation and the importance of transparency in public affairs.

If you are noting that the figures don’t add up, it is due to the withdrawal or “not applicable” status of two of the requests noted. In one last act of generosity I should also acknowledge that three of the late requests were sent by an Acting Minister due to Pita Sharples being overseas.

The right to know: Peter Dunne

Posted by on October 9th, 2013

Despite his changed status in recent times, the Right to Know series will also profile former Minister Peter Dunne’s time as, Minister of Revenue, Associate Minister of Health, and Associate Minister of Conservation in 2012.

In order to shed light on the lack of transparency from government Ministers, my team and I have been researching the adequacy of Ministers responses to Official Information Act requests. In March, we sent a request to all Ministers asking for the number of OIA requests received between 1 January 2012 and 1 January 2013, the number transferred, extended, responded to within the 20 working day limit, responded to late or not responded to at all.

Peter Dunne responded to my OIA request by providing a figure to each one of my questions, ordered within his respective portfolios. For example to the question, ‘How many of the request were received were responded to within 20 working days?’, the Minister responded ‘Twenty’ in respect to his Revenue portfolio.

While it was useful to see a breakdown of the OIA requests received by each of his portfolios, like a number of other Ministers, such as Simon Bridges, we have to take the Minister’s word that these are the correct figures. This is compared with other Ministers who have provided spread sheets with exact dates that OIA requests were received and responded to.

Peter Dunne’s OIA response track record is relatively good, with the then Minister responding to all OIA requests received in the 20 working day period, excepting from three requests which were granted extensions.

Peter Dunne’s office received a total of 45 OIA requests, 30 were responded to in the 20 working day period, 12 were transferred, and three had the time limit extended.

But while his office may have responded to OIA requests quickly, the figures for the information released are not so positive. Of the 33 requests responded to by Dunne’s office 9 were refused in full, 15 requests were partially refused, and only nine requests were released in full. Unfortunately, this means during his time as Minister, Peter Dunne was not particularly transparent in the releasing of information.Unlike a number of Ministers, Peter Dunne did provide a breakdown of the parties or groups that had requested information. The most requests came from journalists with 14 requests, followed by the Labour Party with four, the Green Party, an undisclosed Party and a blogger with one request each.


The right to know: Maurice Williamson

Posted by on October 9th, 2013

Next on the list in the The Right to Know series, is Hon Maurice Williamson, Minister for Building and Construction, Customs, Land Information and Statistics.

Full points are awarded for no late responses as well as the comprehensive response provided to my request. Mr Williamson responded in letter form as opposed to providing a spread sheet which, as previously stated made analysing the data easier but also made it impossible to reach our own conclusions.

Williamson also declined both the parts of the request seeking information about who had made OIA requests of him and which of these were released in full, partially released or fully refused. Without a spreadsheet we can only assume that the log kept by his office does not classify responses other than to note completion and date of response.

So, average marks for his system, good marks for his attitude to the statutory requirements and ultimately another example of the lack of cohesion in Ministers’ approaches to the Official Information Act.


In order to shed light on the lack of transparency from government Ministers, my team and I have been researching the adequacy of Ministers’ responses to Official Information Act requests. In March, we sent a request to all Ministers asking for the number of OIA requests received between 1 January 2012 and 1 January 2013, the number transferred, extended, responded to within the 20 working day limit, responded to late or not responded to at all.

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The right to know: Nathan Guy

Posted by on October 9th, 2013

The next instalment of The Right to Know series focuses on Hon Nathan Guy, Minister for Primary industries and Racing.

He provided us with a spreadsheet which was reasonably comprehensive. There were some notes which were indecipherable due to the numbering of requests being omitted from the data provided however we are confident these made no difference to the final analysis.

The only caveat I will place on the data below is that I think our analysis was pretty darn generous. The two requests we have classified as “Not Responded to” exclude those in the original information which had “not applicable” noted in the column for response or which had notes identifying them as “transferred requests”. As per usual though, the inconsistencies in record keeping mean that we should state that it is possible these requests were either responded to or transferred but no note was entered.

All up, pretty dismal. Out of 127 requests total only 70 were responded to as specified in the act. Even after subtracting the (rather considerable) number of transferred requests Mr Guy is not responding to 75% of requests in the time frame set by law.


In order to shed light on the lack of transparency from government Ministers, my team and I have been researching the adequacy of Ministers responses to Official Information Act requests. In March, we sent a request to all Ministers asking for the number of OIA requests received between 1 January 2012 and 1 January 2013, the number transferred, extended, responded to within the 20 working day limit, responded to late or not responded to at all.

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The right to know: John Banks

Posted by on October 6th, 2013

As we make our way down the list of government Ministers, this next instalment of The Right to Know series we look at Hon. John Banks, MP for Epsom, Minister for Regulatory Reform, Small Business and Associate Minister of Commerce and Education.

John Banks receives a very special accolade being the only Minister who provided so little information there is no point in producing a graph!

His response included a copy of a spread sheet that informs us of the “status” of each request yet only holds entries saying complete. No dates by which to calculate if they were responded to within 20 days. No transferred requests. No refusals. Therefore, NO GRAPH!

On an interesting note the spread sheet also only lists 59 requests yet Mr Banks states in his letter he received 61, perhaps they are deleted from the log when they are transferred? With what he has provided us we’ll simply never know.

So Banks, as ACT’s sole representative in Parliament, receives the award for the most obfuscating response to our request

Background:  In order to shed light on the lack of transparency from government Ministers, my team and I have been researching the adequacy of Ministers’ responses to Official Information Act requests. In March, we sent a request to all Ministers asking for the number of OIA requests received between 1 January 2012 and 1 January 2013, the number transferred, extended, responded to within the 20 working day limit, responded to late or not responded to at all.

The right to know: Chris Tremain

Posted by on October 6th, 2013

In this next instalment of The Right to Know series, we look at Chris Tremain, Minister of Internal Affairs and Local Government, Associate Minister of Tourism and MP for Napier.

In order to shed light on the lack of transparency from government Ministers, my team and I have been researching the adequacy of Ministers’ responses to Official Information Act requests. In March, we sent a request to all Ministers asking for the number of OIA requests received between 1 January 2012 and 1 January 2013, the number transferred, extended, responded to within the 20 working day limit, responded to late or not responded to at all.

Chris Tremain responded with an A3 size version of his OIA database but declined to specify requests that were granted in full, partially refused or refused in full. In the graph below you will note there is one classified as “Refused in Full” because this was noted in the spread sheet. It is also possible that the three requests classified as not responded to did actually receive a notice of refusal however there is no corresponding response of any kind recorded in the spread sheet.

Equally it is possible that some of the requests  responded to in the correct time frame were declined if the Minister’s office noted refusals as a type of response. As usual, we are working with the data provided and have distilled the best conclusions possible.

All up, a just over 50% hit rate of responding to requests in time. The remaining proportion are about evenly split between being transferred or extended and simply being responded to late or not at all.

A pretty poor response, but one which is tiresomely consistent with most of his colleagues but Chris Tremain does get brownie points for providing data about those who sent OIAs.

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The right to know: John Key

Posted by on October 2nd, 2013

In this next instalment of The Right to Know series we looked at Rt Hon John Key, Prime Minister, Minister of Tourism, Ministerial Services and Minister responsible for the SIS and GCSB.

In order to shed light on the lack of transparency from government Ministers, in March we sent a request to all Ministers asking for the number of OIA requests received between 1 January 2012 and 1 January 2013, the number transferred, extended, responded to within the 20 working day limit, responded to late or not responded to at all.

The Prime Minister responded, as many other recipients did, with a redacted version of a spreadsheet, his full response is here. You will see he declined to provide information about the requestors as it required substantial collation, he did however state that no one has been charged or had a charge suggested for an OIA during the period we asked about.

All in all, John Key’s office appears to be pretty efficient at answering the considerable number of OIAs received, only two responses were late without an extension being requested and these only by a couple of days.

Working through the data though there is a common theme: very few OIAs were responded to before their exact due date including those that had extensions granted.

Amusingly, according to the data provided, the Prime Minister’s office is also able to pre-empt requests having apparently responded to one on 10 August when it wasn’t received until 13 August! It may be a typo and I realise these things can happen, however this raises doubts about the veracity of some of these entries.

There is a very high number of transfers or partial transfers away from the Minister’s office but I will place a caveat on this part of the data. In general (with other Ministers) if it says “transfer” or “transferred” we assume the request was transferred to another Minister or department rather than being answered by the Minister in question, in this case John Key.

Other entries that state the request was transferred from another Minister were not used in our analysis however due to the lack of clarity in the spreadsheet entries I am not 100% confident this interpretation is correct in this instance. We did also look at the dates to try to ensure we were correct in classifying requests as transferred from rather than to but the margin of error is likely increased for this piece of analysis.

Overall, an 8 out of 10 for the Prime Minister and his office. Given the information provided his responses to OIA requests are timely and reasonable, though if the analysis was to look at the content of those responses, the mark out of 10 may be different.


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The right to know: Paula Bennett

Posted by on October 2nd, 2013

In this next instalment of The Right to Know series, in which the adequacy of Ministers’ responses to Official Information Act (OIA) requests are put on the spot, we will be looking at Hon Paula Bennett, Minister for Social Development and Youth Affairs.

In order to shed light on the transparency of government Ministers, in March, my team sent a request to all Ministers asking for the number of OIA requests received between 1 January 2012 and 1 January 2013, the number transferred, extended, responded to within the 20 working day limit, responded to late or not responded to at all.

Paula Bennett responded to our request with a redacted version of her office’s main spreadsheet, the full response is here. As you can see the information is severely limited in it’s usefulness as we can’t tell which responses were legitimately extended as allowed under the act and which were simply responded to late. As such the below graph must be viewed as more about the complexities of the requests received than about the Minister’s ability or willingness to respond in the spirit of the Act.

Minister Bennett has also declined to provide us with information about those requests she may have transferred or refused, partially or fully. She did however give us a ‘sort of’ answer to our query as to who was making the requests:

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