Policy option documents not released

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters during their post-Cabinet...
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters during their post-Cabinet press conference at Parliament yesterday. Photo: NZME
Jacinda Ardern has declined to release a document outlining what policy changes the Government agreed to look into, saying she views the work as notes rather than a formal document.

That is despite Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters previously saying the 33-page document would be released publicly, but the timing of that was up to Ms Ardern.

Labour and NZ First have released a brief coalition document, but in October Mr Peters revealed the existence of a longer document underlying the list of policy wins, and setting out how the Government would work.

He said it would be released in the coming months, but exactly when would be up to Ms Ardern.

Both Ms Ardern and Mr Peters faced media after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, with Mr Peters referencing Moses and Zimbabwe in explaining why the longer document would not be released, and the Prime Minister preferring to call it a collection of notes.

‘‘Of course we made notes during the course of those [coalition] discussions, including further areas that we may undertake some work.

‘‘Those things that we formally signed up to, they made it into the coalition agreement [publicly released],’’ Ms Ardern said.

‘‘There are other areas that we may explore together, that may be found to be unworkable, that may be found to just be fiscally irresponsible, that may never be progressed, [or] at the moment that we see some benefit and that it is something that we will progress, that is the point at which it will be made public.

‘‘We are certainly not leaving it in the shadows.

‘‘At the time that those elements are worked through and found to be workable options and ideas, then they will be released.’’

Pressed on why Mr Peters said the document would be released and not elements as policy work progressed, Mr Peters took the lead.

‘‘I mean Moses came down from the mountain, he only had 10 commandments, right? But there’s a lot in the Old Testament as well. Get it?

‘‘I’m only here because the Prime Minister asked me to be here. This is not Zimbabwe all over again.’’

Earlier, Ms Ardern’s office declined an Official Information Act (OIA) request by Newsroom, saying the Prime Minister does not hold such official information.

The office referred to Section 2 of the Act, saying official information is only that held by a Minister of the Crown in their official capacity.

National leader Bill English said Ms Ardern needed to release the ‘‘secret agreement’’, which ‘‘goes to the very heart of the formation of the new Government’’.

‘‘It is unacceptable for the Prime Minister to claim it’s not public information.

‘‘It is and the public deserves to know how the new coalition, and therefore the country, will be run,’’ Mr English said.

‘‘This is not the openness and accountability promised by Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters and enshrined in the public version of their coalition agreement.’’

The refusal to release the document comes as National attacks Labour over what it says is a lack of transparency over answers to written questions, with Labour accusing the Opposition of time-wasting tactics.

Since Labour came to power, National has lodged thousands of questions. Labour’s Leader of the House, Chris Hipkins, has labelled the questions the equivalent of Parliamentary spam mail. — NZME


"Since Labour came to power, National has lodged thousands of questions". I would have too. I don't doubt Ms Ardern is a nice person and means well, but she is showing breathtaking naivete and a lack of political know how.

As time moves on we see more spin and less policy .