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Did Govt sidestep officials to cut Maori deal?

Did Govt sidestep officials to cut Maori deal?

Today 9:30am

The Government appears to have negotiated support from the Maori Party for changes to the emissions trading scheme without input from officials.

A September 17 request by Carbon News (www.carbonnews.co.nz), the country’s only specialist news service on the carbon markets, for Cabinet papers dealing with the agreement was yesterday declined.

In a written response from the office of Climate Change Issues Minister Nick Smith, Carbon News was told that the request was declined under section 18e of the Official Information Act on the basis that no such papers exist.

The agreement was announced by Smith and Prime Minister John Key at the post-Cabinet press conference on September 14.

Under the Official Information Act, knowledge “held” by ministers is considered to be official information, regardless of whether it is written down or not.

Yesterday, Carbon News asked Smith’s office whether the statement that there were no such papers meant that the issue wasn’t discussed by Cabinet, that it was discussed without advice from officials, or that all advice from officials and discussion was verbal.

This was the response: “Discussions at Cabinet are confidential. Officials do not provide advice on negotiations between political parties.”

Carbon News then sought to clarify whether the refusal was on the basis that there were no Cabinet papers headed “Agreement between the Government and the Maori Party on the ETS”, or whether there were there were no papers containing relevant information.

Carbon News also asked for the Cabinet minute on the issue. We were told: “There are no cabinet papers nor minutes with this information.”

Carbon News replied saying that what we wanted was the Cabinet material (papers to Cabinet and its committees, minutes of Cabinet or its committees) relating to the minister’s announcement and the Climate Change Response (Moderated Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill, introduced into Parliament on September 24.

“If there were no such Cabinet material, we said, we would like a statement from the minister saying that the announcement was made without being considered by Cabinet,” says Carbon news Editor Adelia Hallet.

“Just before Carbon News went to press this morning we were told that there are papers relating to the moderation of the emissions trading scheme which are being considered for release in relation to Carbon News’ request. “

Smith’s office repeated the statement that there are no Cabinet papers or minutes relating to the agreement between the Government and the Maori Party.

ENDS

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