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Real Government Transparency in New Zealand

Thanks to the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch for sharing this story from the Sydney Morning Herald contrasting the low amount of transparency in Australia government with a high degree of openness in New Zealand.

Unlike Australia and America, NZ doesn’t exempt whole catagories of information from disclosure:

The New Zealand Cabinet Manual states: “There is no blanket exemption for any class of papers under the Official Information Act 1982. Cabinet and Cabinet committee records are therefore covered by the Official Information Act in the usual way, and every request for Cabinet records must be considered on its merits against the criteria in the Act.”

In this country, both Presidents Clinton and Bush have argued that forcing disclosure of advice provided to the executive branch would impair good government. But in New Zealand, they see things differently:

It’s impossible to imagine any senior Australian public servant adopting the advice of Marie Shroff, the New Zealand’s secretary of cabinet and clerk of the Executive Council for 15 years, and now the Privacy Commissioner, who said:

“If I, as a civil servant, write a Cabinet paper which I expect to be sought for public release I am going to be extraordinarily careful to get my facts right, to avoid trespassing into politics, to give comprehensive reasons for and against a proposal, and to think very carefully about my recommendations. My advice will therefore be balanced, accurate and comprehensive.”

As far as I know, NZ hasn’t been hit with an existential crisis since their FOI (Freedom of Information) act was passed in 1983. Maybe we should consider a higher level of transparency!

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