Nats undermining open government

Last year I blogged on the ACC-gutting Bill that has just this week been rammed through Parliament under urgency, quoting the Regulatory Impact Statement on the Bill:

The Treasury Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) Team has reviewed this regulatory impact statement (RIS) and considers that it does not meet the RIS requirements. The RIS does not contain the required information and the analysis is incomplete in a number of key areas. For example, some of the proposals to remove ACC entitlements will shift costs onto other government agencies or onto individuals but the RIS does not quantify these costs. The proposal to introduce experience rating and risk sharing in the Work Account will increase administrative and compliance costs for business and for the ACC Scheme, but these costs have not yet been investigated. In addition, the RIS consultation requirements have not been met.

Pretty damning stuff!

So when the even more draconian Bill to gut democracy and facilitate privatisation of assets in Auckland appeared just before Christmas, I was surprised there was no RIS in it.  Instead, there was just a lengthy web link to a RIS, which didn’t even work from the PDF I was viewing online.  So I had to type it in character by character, as would anyone viewing a hard copy of the Bill.  Someone having a casual perusal of the Bill wouldn’t even bother.

Thanks to Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn, I now know why.  In November last year Cabinet approved a new policy on Regulatory Impact Statements:

The full text of all RISs is required to be published on the websites of the administering agency and the Treasury. In relation to Bills, the URL (rather than the full text) is to be provided in the Explanatory Note. Hard copies of the RIS must be provided to select committees (or the House of Representatives if the Bill is passed under urgency).

In plain [Dipton] English, this Government is attempting to avoid public scrutiny of Bills by making Regulatory Impact Statements almost as hard to find as Phil Heatley’s and Gerry Brownlee’s Ministerial credit card receipts.  A very poor look as far as open government is concerned.

12 Comments Posted

  1. Speaking of transparency and government, anybody following the ACTA negotiations?

    Favourite comment:
    I don’t think there’s much chance of changing the American negotiators views on this, but I’m still going to contact my representatives in Congress. Nothing will likely come out of it. If you are a /.er in a more reasonable country, say New Zealand or Canada, I beg you to contact your MPs and demand transparency in this process. We shouldn’t have to find out about the progress of negotiations through leaks.

  2. For all that, out trolls don’t defend anything their team does, they come here to divert discussion from the key points we might be pursuing. It’s a very, very rare thing for one of them to address an issue of Frog’s/our chouice and see it through to a point of agreement or clarity.
    Not the Way of the Troll, at all.

  3. Mega – Clear March is in the Stars Fly
    I’ll have to give up my filthy Ozzie habit of assigning nick-names to people
    (wherein Toad becomes Toadie, Russel Rusty, Keith Keif, and Kevin Kevy).
    These people Work Hard!!!

  4. Thethe are clouded timeth, Mark, and it’th thickening.

    Like Toad, I’d like to put the whole thong into the Explanatory Note.

  5. Losing Transparency is an abrogation of Government.
    Loose Legislation is lost Legal light.
    Obscurity is Obstruction
    Negligence Near

  6. Frog, well done if you have a paper-free office and read Bills on-line.

    Personally, I can’t cope with a 200 or 300 page Bill on-line, so print it out (and often take it home for my weekend reading – yes, I suppose I am a sad-ass, before anyone else says it!)

    But the chances of me typing in the url for the regulatory impact statement from the hard copy I print out are minimal.

    I agree with you that this must be a deliberate attempt to hide adverse Departmental advice from the public. It is far simpler from a bureaucratic point of view to just put the whole thong into the explanatory note to the Bill than post it on separate website(s) and then provide links to them.

  7. Trevor, wouldn’t it be more transparent to put the RIS statement in the Explanatory Note to Bill itself, as they used to, rather than require people to link to it, however easy or difficult that may be?

    I suspect the problem of not being able to link to the Auckland governance Bill RIS was just a technical stuff-up in creating the PDF, rather than a deliberate ploy.

    But having it all in one document, as they used to, would solve that problem and make it more accessible for everyone.

  8. Providing the URL instead of the full text isn’t too bad, but putting it into a document that you can’t extract text from is poor form. They should at least provide a link beside the link to the PDF of the bill. But why was the PDF in a form that you can’t extract text from?


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