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Shining a spotlight on government

3 November 2008

Shining a spotlight on government

The Green Party has today launched an ambitious and comprehensive Open Government policy to expose Government decision-making to closer public scrutiny.

Co-Leader Russel Norman says the aim is to make central and local government much more transparent and democratic.

"While this policy is broader than just party donations, it is particularly important in light of recent party funding scandals," Dr Norman says.

"Too often New Zealanders are kept in the dark about the decisions that are taken on their behalf and they have very little information about who is providing money to political parties. And citizens are mostly unaware that businesses routinely employ paid professional lobbyists to influence the decisions of government and parliament.

"The Greens believe that in a democracy people have a right to know what decisions are being taken on their behalf. They have a right to know who is giving money to political parties. And they have a right to know who is employing lobbyists to influence the decisions of our democratically elected leaders.

"But currently the most important democratically elected decision making body in the country, the Cabinet, is a closed book to the public. The Greens believe New Zealanders have a right to see Cabinet minutes unless there is a compelling reason not to do so.

"The Official Information Act is supposed to allow New Zealanders access to information but it is widely abused by departments and ministers who don't want the public to know what they are up to. The Greens will improve the OIA.

"We also think there should be a fixed election date so the Prime Minister of the day can't play politics with it," Dr Norman says.

"The current rule, which allows political donations under $10,000 to remain hidden from the public, needs to be reduced to $1000 so we can see who is funding parties.

"I personally also believe that we need to look at government departments' use of the Broadcasting Standards Authority. Government departments, annoyed by investigative journalists, can tie up journalists and television network resources by repeatedly taking cases to the BSA," Dr Norman says.


Key points of Greens' Open Government Policy


Central government

* Fixed election date
* Cabinet minutes and decisions to be made public within a month (with limited exceptions for security etc)
* Tighten rules on the Official Information Act
* All archives must be opened within 30 years
* Annual limit of $35,000 on donations to parties from any one
person or entity
* The true identity of the source of any party donation above
$1000 must be disclosed
* Citizens Assembly on campaign finance
* Lobbyist register with disclosure of clients, target, methods and subject

Parliament

* Register of pecuniary interests must cover donations for barrister fees
* MPs Code of Conduct
* Bring parliament within OIA but with some limits to protect parties from government intervention
* Treaties need a vote of parliament.

Local government

* Resource consents and breaches to be made public
* Resource consent applications to be made public (including non-notified)
* OIA changes apply to local government also
* Councillors must disclose pecuniary interests
* Campaign donations over $500 must be declared

A copy of the full policy can be found here:
http://www.greens.org.nz/policy/open_government


ENDS

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