Official Information Act

Time to re-open the Darren Hughes affair

Labour and a journalist challenged Police refusal to release the full john Banks file and the Ombudsmen ruling that they should release the file.

The Herald reports:

The Ombudsman has ordered the release of MP John Banks’ statement to police over donations to his Auckland mayoral campaign.

However, the former Act leader’s statement will not be released publicly until after he has stood trial for allegedly filing a false electoral return for his failed 2010 campaign.

Police investigated alleged irregularities in Mr Banks’ campaign donations but no charges were laid.

[...] ¬†¬† Read more »

Has Chris Turney lied about his support by institutions?

Chris Turney and his now infamous Ship of Fools are looking more and more foolish as evidence mounts as to the real purpose and backing of their little trip of fancy to the ‘ice-free’ waters of the Antarctic.

When this debacle unfolded people started rummaging through their website. One page, that of their supporters, raised alarm bells.

It appears that taxpayers funds may have been used to promote this little warmist holiday camp on ice.

The Taxpayers Union followed up by contacting the New Zealand organisations listed and found some pleasant news…for taxpayers…and not so pleasant news for Chris Turney.

Following the¬†well publicised¬†case of global warming scientists being stuck in record pack ice in Antarctica (ironically the¬†expedition¬†was intended to study the dwindling sea ice) and the efforts to rescue them, the¬†Taxpayers’ Union¬†began enquiries late last year¬†to find out precisely how much taxpayers’ money the NZ¬†Government¬†“supporters” listed on the¬†exhibition’s¬†website¬†had contributed.

It appears that thankfully New Zealand taxpayers’ haven’t forked out the huge amounts feared. In fact, it appears that the¬†Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) is claiming at least one ‘supporter’ it doesn’t¬†have…

The¬†expedition’s¬†website¬†lists expedition supporters the Department of Conservation,¬†Landcare Research, and¬†the University of Waikato.

Despite asking the AAE leader (via email and his very active twitter account), and the media contacts at the University of New South Wales, no one would tell us how much kiwi taxpayers had contributed via the three agencies.

On 1 January we lodged Official Information Act requests with DoC, Landcare and the University of Waikato.

To DoC’s credit it responded by 8 January, stating that DoC were not participants in the expedition and therefore the information (i.e. what financial and non-financial support was given) does not exist. ¬† Read more »

Manufactured Herald story about Winston busted by Police

Winston Peters claims have been dismissed by the Police, essentially saying he has lied, and because he based his outrageous claims off of a Herald on Sunday article that they lied too.

NZ Police have received a number of requests for a copy of the Operation Carlton (“tea pot tapes”) investigation file.¬† An appropriately redacted copy of the file was provided to Mr Ambrose’s legal team in June 2012 as part of the disclosure process.

However, a number of allegations were made by Mr Winston Peters on 7 August 2013 in relation to statements made in the Police file.   After receiving further requests this week and considering relevant factors under the Official Information Act, NZ Police are releasing relevant extracts from the file.  These extracts are reproduced in full below.

Police confirm again that there are no references in the Police file to accessing Mr Peter’s phone records, nor is there any consideration of an application to access his records.¬† Read more »

We need to do this here

Parliamentary Services expenses remain outside of the Official Information Act. How can we trust that the troughers aren’t snuffling up stacks of our cash from the trough?

In the UK a tough line is being taken now with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority being ordered to release information:

Westminster officials have been ordered to publish MPs’ expenses claims in full so the public can judge whether they are genuine.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which oversees expenses payments, has been told it must disclose the receipts handed in by MPs to back up their claims.

The ruling by the Information Commissioner is a victory for The Sunday Telegraph, after Ipsa refused to release three receipts we had asked to see.

Graham Smith investigated its refusal and found that the authority had breached the Freedom of Information Act. He gave officials five weeks to hand over the documents or face prosecution for contempt of court.

Ipsa said it was studying the ruling. It must decide whether to appeal. If it concedes defeat and releases the receipts, it will set a precedent for the documents to be viewable by the public.

John Mann, the Labour MP who has called for greater openness on expenses, welcomed Mr Smith‚Äôs ruling as ‚Äúvery sensible‚ÄĚ and said MPs would be more careful about the claims they submitted if they knew the receipts would be displayed.

He said: ‚ÄúTransparency affects behaviour positively. Every time there‚Äôs an attempt to hide things, using whatever excuse, it creates the impression that there‚Äôs something wrong going on. Generally these days I think there isn‚Äôt, but the public have a right to know.‚ÄĚ

Ipsa was set up to restore public confidence following the 2009 expenses scandal, which led to the jailing of four MPs for fraudulent claims Рincluding one, Jim Devine, who submitted fake receipts for £3,000 of cleaning and £5,000 of printing.

Looks like another tough question time for Hekia coming up

Politician of the Week, Chippie will be like a rat up a drain pipe with this one.

The Office of the Ombudsman says it’s seeing a worrying trend of agencies seeking to exclude certain types of information from the application of the Official Information Act.

Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem says it appears some agencies are routinely drafting new or amending legislation in a way that means people can’t apply under the act for access to information.

She says there have been incidents where her office hasn’t been consulted, one example being the cabinet paper on proposed charter schools.

Dame Beverley says the fact that her office was not consulted is either total ineptitude or a deliberate attempt to try to exclude the oversight of the ombudsman.

He‚Äôs got two weeks to work out his line of questioning, and after his performance over the last few weeks it is hard to imagine he won’t have questions about ‚Äútotal ineptitude‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúa deliberate attempt to exclude the oversight of the Ombudsman.

Beverly Wakem has given bugger all wriggle room on this one.

Schools must release data

ŠĒ• Stuff.co.nz

Schools have been ticked off by the Ombudsman in a stern letter, explaining to them their obligations under the Official Information Act. The NZEI should cease and desist from their illegal actions is essentially what she has told them:

Schools have been told to disregard the advice of a primary teachers’ union and instead release controversial National Standards performance information.

Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem has written to all schools after some brushed off requests for the data with a pro-forma response provided by the New Zealand Educational Institute.

Dame Beverley said the advice NZEI had offered “conflicted” with that provided by the New Zealand School Trustees Association.

“In my view boards of trustees are entitled to rely on the advice conveyed by the NZSTA. However, boards that rely on the advice conveyed by the NZEI risk an adverse finding being made against them by an Ombudsman under the [law],” she said.

Schools that had acted, or were considering acting, “in accordance with the NZEI advice” should reconsider, she said.

Those that continued to refuse or extend release of information would face an investigation, which “may find that a board has acted unreasonably or contrary to the law”.

NZEI continues to advise schools to ignore the OIA

ŠĒ• the tipline

NZEI President, Ian Leckie,  in a letter sent to schools yesterday is still advising schools to ignore the law and refuse OIA requests. This is not only illegal but also unacceptable in a transparent society. The NZEI is now even lecturing the Chief Ombudsman over the matter.

Why is it the NZEI cannot follow the law?

Surely it is time for the NZEI to be de-registered for such blatant law-breaking:

 

Build them

The teacher unions are now set to go to war over the possibility of League Tables. They lost the war over National Standards and so their solution is to now try and prevent the data being analysed:

NZEI president Ian Leckie said this week that schools were deeply concerned that information could be made public – it will be subject to Official Information Act requests – and aggregated into crude league tables that would unfairly label students, schools and their communities.

He said they were not moderated and there was huge variation in the ways schools were implementing them. “It would be a case of junk information in and junk information out,” Mr Leckie said.

Any national standards-based league table would simply reflect the school decile and serve to name and shame some of the very schools that were working hardest to raise student achievement.

He wanted an assurance that the date would be “protected” from publication.

“Otherwise the Government will find that come May 31, schools will be reluctant to hand their student achievement data over.”

I think Mr Leckie will find that the public embarrassment of a poor rating compared with schools that did hand over data will ensure that Boards of Trusttee will comply with their legal requirement to submit data.

Whaleoil Redux 2011 – The SIS files

On July 25 Phil Goff made an extraordinary claim in the media:

Labour leader Phil Goff denies he was briefed on the SIS investigation into suspicions that Israeli backpackers were spying in Christchurch. Goff is furious over the Prime Minister‚Äôs entire handling of the affair, including claims yesterday that the Labour leader was kept in the loop. Goff insists he was not briefed before, during or after the investigation and says he has texted the head of the SIS to complain about John Key‚Äôs comments‚Ķ ‚ĶHe said the Prime Minister has to understand the responsibilities of his office and cannot ‚Äúmouth off‚ÄĚ without checking his facts first.

Phil Goff in trying to score a cheap political point against the Prime Minister was trying to say that the head of the SIS, Warren Tucker, had not followed the law. As I wrote at the time extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Phil Goff has form in throwing civil servants under the bus in order to score a political point. It is now well known that he lied about a foreign affairs briefing to make his claims about the “gone by lunchtime” comment. Now he was saying that a¬†senior¬†civil servant hadn’t followed the law. I thought I would try and find out and so I sent an email to the SIS on 26 July, just the day after Phil Goff made his accusations:

Dr Warren Tucker
Director New Zealand Security Intelligence Service
Box 900
Wellington

26 July 2011

RE: OFFICIAL INFORMATION ACT REQUEST

Dear Dr. Tucker

Under the Official Information Act 1982, I request a number of documents. If you require clarification on any of these requests, please do not hesitate to contact me on021 535 xxx.

  1. Copies of briefing notes and/or documents given and/or shown to The Leader of the Opposition during any briefing held in March 2011 regarding Israeli nationals.
  2. Copies of diary notes made at the time or subsequent to the March briefings to The Leader of the Opposition.
  3. Details of any acknowledgement by The Leader of the Opposition of having read or received any of the aforementioned briefing notes and/or documents.

If you wish to withhold any documents I request that you supply me with a list of documents withheld.

I also request that you supply electronic copies of any documents released via email to me.

Regards

Cameron Slater

Little did I know the storm that was about to be unleashed. As days went on Phil Goff dug a deeper and deeper hole with his public pronouncements on the matter. He couldn’t get enough press and he thought he was onto a king hit against the Prime Minister. I simply watched and waited, I had no idea what was going on except that which was in the media.

On August 4 Phil Goff issued a press statement that accused Warren Tucker full out of lying. He was saying that he had lost confidence in him. I didn’t know at this stage that Phil Goff had been told by the SIS that they were going to release the OIA request information to me on that day. I hadn’t heard a word at that stage and after writing that post I went my post box and cleared the mail. In the mail was a plain envelope with OHMS on it…I was gob-smacked. I raced back to the car and opened the letter. In that letter was the response from Warren Tucker to my OIA. I was sitting on a bombshell. It took me 20 minutes to drive to the office, in that time I made some phone calls to media. I agreed to release the documents to Tv3, little did I know Phil Goff at this point was busy feeding the media himself.

When I got to the office I hastily posted a few questions for Phil Goff, I still didn’t know that he had been advised by the SIS that the documents were being released. Those questions were designed to let Phil Goff that I had the documents, that they were about to be released and that they proved he had been lying. Phil Goff had a choice when he was advised by the SIS about the document release. He could have concocted a plausible story about forgetting the details, that he was more concerned with the details of Christchurch and so it slipped his mind. Or he could attack me, the head of the SIS and attempt to brazen it out. He choose poorly.

At 6pm on 4 August I dropped my bombshell and released the documents. (SIS-OIA pdf) Tv3 ran the story as their lead item. Phil Goff went on attack. Meanwhile I was on NewstalkZB with Larry Williams just after

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

.

It was now clear that Labour’s attack lines were against me and against Warren Tucker. They weren’t interested in the truth.

Labour and Phil Goff had dug a very deep hole. The hole also threatened to swallow Maryan Street and Annette King who had been put up by Goff to run the attacks against John Key. Their words were now damning them in the face of documentary evidence that Phil Goff had lied.

Maryan Street said she would apologise if she got anything wrong. I have yet to receive her apology. At this stage Phil Goff still had choices, he could apologise and move on or he could die in the ditch he had dug.

The attacks against me were flying thick and fast. For some reason the left wing elements of the media, including Scoop, Barry Soper, John Pagani and to a lesser extent Chris Trotter have all tried to say that I should never have been given the documents. They all ignore the fact that I asked for the documents under the OIA and I asked for details that wouldn’t be secret, I was very specific and not only that I published the exact questions I asked.

Some in the media were upset that I was given the documents first, ignoring that all but one news outlet hadn’t actually asked for them. The one that did asked a week after I did and only at the prompting of Phil Goff and Labour. I guess the SIS figured that because I asked first I should get them first. I found out later that despite my request for them to be electronic they inf act posted them to me. I turned into a race between NZ Post delivering to me in Auckland and Stuff getting theirs delivered in Wellington. It was a race I had no knowledge of.

Instead of apologising fro making amistake Phil Goff decided to make an even bigger issue of the story.

Phil Goff said questions need to be asked:

Labour leader Phil Goff says questions remain over how a right-wing blogger asked the SIS for a confidential document about a briefing he had with the spy agency.

Questions also remained over why the SIS released the material with such urgency ‚Äď four working days after receiving the request under the Official Information Act. Most requests are either rejected outright or take at least three weeks to action.

The simple answer to the how a right wing blogger asked the SIS is that¬†I simply asked for it. I watched Phil Goff and then Annette King change the story about the¬†briefing¬†he says he never had, but documents prove that he did. I was angered that Phil Goff was using¬†the¬†same tactics that he did when caught lying over the Darren Hughes affair, so¬†incensed¬†I wrote an email. That email proved to be Phil Goff’s undoing.

Their attack dogs are unleashed. John Pagani describes the SIS and a rogue agency committing treason. He and other left wing commentator ignore the fact that the SIS had to follow the law.

After I wrote that email the law took effect. The SIS had to, by law, answer my request. The leftwing, Phil Goff, the media all needed to ask themselves a very pertinent question.

Do they think that the SIS should selectively answer OIA requests based on the political views of the person asking and the political views of the opponents of the person asking?

They never answered that question because where it leads to is where they were trying to smear the SIS, that there was political involvement in the SIS when they know very clearly that there was not. If they were to answer in the affirmative then they supported the politicization of the SIS.

Phil Goff has a proven history of leaking, he has a proven history of lying and he just keeps on keeping the story alive. Phil Goff needed to accept he forgot about the briefing, got it wrong, and was wrong to attack a senior civil servant. There was a point where I could have accepted that Phil Goff just forgot. That point passed when he insisted that he and he alone has things right.

But pause for a moment and think about what Phil Goff was suggesting. If he was right and he was never shown anything, or even briefed. Remember his first contention was that he was never briefed, then it changed to he was briefed just a little bit. But think, about what Phil Goff was really suggesting.

He was suggesting that Warren Tucker had falsified documents, made up minutes for briefings that never occurred and lied about it all. That really is too unbelievable. The alternate was that Phil Goff simply forgot about it, tried to make political capital, got sprung and then made some stuff up to cover for his faulty memory.

What was more believable? That the head of the SIS falsified documents and lied about meetings, or that Phil Goff forgot.

The sad thing for Phil Goff is that when confronted with the truth he continued to lie and continued to extend the lies. Now more than a few people have accused me of using too strong a description of Phil Goff’s actions. That they weren’t really lies. I could have accepted that at the start but when he continually insisted something didn’t occur when it demonstrably did, and then changes his story from ‘it never happened’ to ‘it happened but I never got any documents‘ and an attack on the¬†integrity¬†of a senior civil servant then that crosses over to lies. When he says he¬†received¬†different briefings and documents prove he¬†received¬†the same briefings then yes that is lying.

This issue, started with a little email OIA request proved without a shadow of a doubt that Phil Goff was and is a liar. I¬†believe¬†it was one of the defining moments of the year. On top of Phil Goff’s poor handling of the Darren Hughes affair this should hav been the issue that finished him off as leader, but for the cowardice of his caucus.

Citizen A tonight

Citizen A

Is Whaleoil Citizen A?

Citizen A – 7pm tonight Triangle TV, replayed 8pm Sunday Sky 89 & Freeview 21

Tune in to join Bomber and his revolving panel of bloggers and Auckland opinion shapers as they offer an up-to-date half hour review of the political media issues of the current week from a very Auckland perspective.

THIS WEEK: Selwyn Manning and Cameron Slater…

Issue one: Official Information Act emails between Peter Jackson and Gerry Brownlee clearly state the Actor’s boycott wasn’t the reason Warners Bros were threatening removal of The Hobbit. How easily lead are people by a manufactured crises?

Issue two: Wikileaks Orama – did we go to war for Fonterra? Did Murray McCully lie to Parliament over meeting the Dalai Lama and how good is the free trade deal with America that John Key claimed would be worth billions?

Issue three tonight: Len Brown and his anonymous donors. Is Len looking after Auckland’s interests or wealthy Aucklander’s interests? And why can’t Auckland save historic sites??

Join Citizen A Facebook group
TWITTER