Friday, July 22, 2022

Point of Order: Transparency under Ardern

Party submissions on donations are kept secret and Taxpayers’ Union is banned from LGNZ conference

Yet again we are being reminded that from the moment she took office in 2017, Jacinda Ardern made a promise she would not keep – she promised her government would be the most open and transparent New Zealand has seen.

In her first formal speech to Parliament she pledged:

“This government will foster a more open and democratic society. It will strengthen transparency around official information.”

A visit to Kiwiblog today draws attention to the latest breach of Ardern’s commitment.

Political parties’ submissions on donation law reform are being kept secret.

The very next Kiwiblog post takes us from bad to worse. It tells of Local Government New Zealand’s annual conference being closed to an organisation which represents taxpayers because LGNZ poobahs disapprove of their opinions.

We imagine no such ban applies to the mainstream media, now that they have become reliant on state subsidies and have committed themselves to promote the Ardern Government’s highly contentious interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi.

First, the secret submissions.

Under the headline Parties’ views on donation laws must be public, Farrar notes the contents of a Stuff report:

The Ministry of Justice struck a deal with political parties to keep secret their submissions on donation law reform.

Last month the Government announced plans to overhaul the donations regime. The shake-up will cap anonymous donations to parties at $5000.

As part of the reform, political parties – and the public – were asked for their feedback on a range of policy options.

The ministry says it will release submissions from ordinary people. But it will not disclose those from three political parties.

Farrar has interjected at that point to express his outrage and says he hopes the Ombudsman intervenes.

Then he returns to the Stuff report:

If there are any submissions that should be public on donation laws, it is the submissions of those who are affected by it – the political parties.

There may be a case for a small portion of a submission to be redacted if it has confidential info such as overall income and/or membership levels, but the views of the political parties should not be kept confidential.

Brightwell did not say which three parties had requested anonymity and Stuff has asked for clarification.

However, last month National released its submission to Stuff when asked for it. The Labour Party refused.

To which Farrar tartly observes:

Okay so we don’t have to be Einstein to work this one out.

Among the many comments beneath his article, someone has suggested a question which Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon should put to the Prime Minister: Can she define ‘Open and Transparent’?

Yesterday the PM happened to be in Palmerston North addressing a conference from which the Taxpayers’ Union has been banned

This was the Local Government New Zealand conference, which expected to attract approximately 600 delegates, such as mayors, chairs, chief executives, councillors (all elected) and senior management from New Zealand’s councils (appointed), along with key players from the private sector, business, government and non government agencies..

But in future Point of Order foresees increasing numbers of appointed councillors joining the delegates, each of them distinguished by their privileged positions as representatives of Māori tribes.

Significantly (or maybe we should say ominously), the conference is focusing on the future of local government.

A website publicising the conference says:

What does the future of local government look like? And how might we start to build that future today? LGNZ’s 2022 conference combines blue-sky thinking with pragmatic solutions to answer these questions.


We’re on a mission to create the most active and inclusive local democracy in the world. Come join us.

We suppose the PM was not apprised of that mission because the words “democracy” and “democratic” were missing from her speech.

We further suppose LGNZ is giving new meaning to the words “inclusive local democracy” because the second Kiwiblog item today is headed LGNZ bans dissenting voices from its annual conference

David Farrar writes:

I didn’t think Local Government New Zealand (an organisation that previously was very well respected, and I even was a guest speaker at) could shoot itself in the foot even more than they have over Three waters, but they have managed it.

The start of their troubles was when for some moronic reason they signed a contract with the Government where they agreed to not oppose the Three Waters reforms in return for a payment of $250,000. Such an agreement would be repugnant for any democratic organisation, but even worse for one that represents a local government sector worth tens of billions of dollars. Selling your soul for a paltry $250,000 was an own goal of monumental proportions.

But now they have gone one better. The Taxpayers Union had advised its 180,000 members and supporters:

I can’t believe I’m writing this – we’ve been banned from the Local Government New Zealand conference on “the future of local government” that opened this afternoon in Palmerston North. And LGNZ has even banned you!

Late yesterday, the Taxpayers’ Union was notified by LGNZ that our registration for the conference had been revoked and we were no longer welcome.

That’s 180,000 registered supporters like you, our staff, and board members – LGNZ has said that no one from or representing the Taxpayers’ Union is permitted to attend.

So why was NZTU banned from being able to attend the conference as observers?

To our astonishment, the justification for the banning was that “the Taxpayers’ Union has previously criticised LGNZ”. The President of LGNZ said that we are not welcome because “we don’t trust what you might say” about the event.

In short, without any appreciation of the irony, LGNZ is gathering together 400 stakeholders to discuss ‘the future of local government’, democracy, diversity, and Three Waters – but won’t allow groups who disagree with them or the Government!

Farrar muses that this could qualify as a George Orwell novel.

He notes that LGNZ is 100% funded by ratepayer and taxpayer money!

And he wonders what next will LGNZ do? Ban journalists whose reporting they don’t like?

If LGNZ – tasked with promoting local democracy – is banning ratepayer voices from discussions on proposed changes to local government, what trust do you have that ratepayers will be a part of the results?

If you agree that democracy should include those who disagree with the government and their sock puppet groups like LGNZ, please take a moment to send an email to those who made this outrageous decision.

Tell the LGNZ President, Council, and the mayors that ratepayers like you should be at the table of these discussions. Local democracy shouldn’t be limited to a special club of people and organisations that the elite happen to agree with.

Point of Order yesterday emailed some questions about the banning of the Taxpayers’ Union to the LGNZ’s media staff. We await the courtesy of an acknowledgement, let alone answers.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

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