Possible inquiry into Callaghan Innovation as Labour crony appointment attempts to explain it all away

Much has been made about the use of fake emails to obtain information from an intransigent Callaghan Innovation. Now it seems there may be an inquiry: Quote:

The NZ Herald published evidence yesterday showing people seeking information from Callaghan Innovation did not actually exist and numerous email addresses from its purported members were directly linked to the group’s head office.

One single Taxpayers’ Union email address was linked to nine fake identities who filed OIA requests seeking information, including details later used by the lobby group to disseminate stories in the media.

Mr Williams claimed his organisation made requests using ghost names because an insider at the science research institute revealed the group’s requests were being treated differently to others. He said this was to avoid releasing information promptly.

Callaghan Innovation chairman Pete Hodgson told Morning Report releasing details of the Taxpayers’ Union’s OIA requests had been justified.

Mr Hodgson said it had been in the public interest to expose an “abuse of process” by giving unredacted details to the New Zealand Herald.

He said the details confirmed the Taxpayers’ Union had used false names to send a “blizzard” of requests to the agency.

He also denied claims by the lobby group’s executive director Jordan Williams that Callaghan Innovation had stalled on handing over information] under the Official Information Act.

All requests by the group had been answered within the legal time limit stipulated by the Act and responding to the requests had cost $103,000, he said. End quote.

Labour crony appointee Pete Hodgson is dissembling. If he were half smart he’d be blaming the previous government and Steve Joyce for the problems. But he isn’t, so now he must suffer for his dissembling.

The point is this: it is not illegal to to use fake names. Many people, including me, do, to ensure we get our requests answered. Malcolm Harbrow from No Right Turn points out the issues: Quote:

Shock! Horror! Someone is using false names to make OIA reqeusts!


Of course they do. So does every serious requester. In fact, I would be extremely surprised if the Herald‘s David Fisher, who produced this article, hadn’t done it himself. As for why, the reason is simple: because there is a well-founded perception that agencies treat requesters differently based on who they are and the reason they believe they are requesting information. A request from a journalist or advocacy group may be delayed, transferred, or see as much information withheld as possible, while a request for exactly the same information from a random member of the public will see it speedily released. So regular requesters often pretend to be other people to get the information they are seeking.

Its a practice as old as the OIA itself. I recall reading an ancient article about the toxic days of the Fourth Labour Government, where people in one Minister’s office were having to make pseudonymous OIA requests to find out what other Ministers were doing. Nowdays, with email and FYI, its trivially easy. Make a throwaway account, file OIA request, wait 20 working days. Its only problematic if the agency is one which uses eligibility requirements as a barrier, or if you want to complain to the Ombudsman later.

Is it legal? The Law Commission noted in its 2012 review of the Act that there’s no requirement for requesters to provide their real name, and agencies would have no way of knowing if they did anyway. It therefore made no recommendation on the matter. The Ombudsman is on record (in their submission to that review (Q45)) that there should be no requirement for requesters to state their real name. So its certainly not seen as a problem by those responsible for upholding the OIA regime.

In other words, rather than some weird and underhand practice, its a common OIA tactic, and likely used by the journalists themselves. Rather than investigating it, maybe the Herald should be looking at why it is necessary, and campaigning for a better freedom of information regime, rather than persecuting those struggling to make it work.

(Meanwhile, the Herald‘s investigation seems pretty dubious itself. They obtained the email addresses of requesters, though its not clear how, and then attempted to hack the accounts to learn their password reset emails. FYI is on record as saying they did not provide the addresses, and I think there’s interesting questions to be asked about how the Herald did it…) End quote.

It turns out that Callaghan Innovation released the requesters’ email addresses. That is real murky too.

As is usual, David ‘Anal’ Fisher has made a mountain out of a molehill in his left-wing crusade against anyone who has different view to him. Obviously all the cats stuck up trees in Northland were recused before that intrepid reporter could rush to the rescue. Either that or Kim Dotcom has stopped his regular requests for hagiographic news stories.

Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

Listen to this post:
Voiced by Amazon Polly