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High Court TPPA ruling sends strong message to Government

13 October 2015

High Court TPPA ruling sends strong message to Government

“Today’s High Court decision sends the Government a clear message that it needs to be more transparent when negotiating trade deals with far-reaching consequences for New Zealanders,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

The ASMS was one of several applicants to the High Court in Wellington, seeking a judicial review of Trade Minister Tim Groser’s blanket refusal to release information about the Trade Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) requested under the Official Information Act. Other applicants included Consumer NZ, Greenpeace, Oxfam, New Zealand Nurses Organisation, the Tertiary Education Union, and Ngati Kahungunu.

In a judgement released today, the High Court has quashed the Minister’s decision in relation to six of the categories of documents requested by Auckland University law Professor Jane Kelsey, who has led the legal challenge on behalf of the applicants.

The judgement says:

“When the Minister refused Professor Kelsey’s request, neither he nor his officials assessed each piece of information requested against the criteria in the Act for withholding official information. Instead, the Minister adopted a “blanket approach” to the request based upon his knowledge of the categories of documents requested by Professor Kelsey. I have concluded this approach did not comply with the Act.”

Ian Powell says this is a significant finding against the Minister.

“Throughout the negotiations we’ve seen a contempt for openness and accountability, which is unacceptable given the concerns expressed by a wide range of groups and individuals about the potential effects of the TPPA,” he says.

“Maybe now that the negotiations have been concluded, perhaps we will finally get a chance to see what we’ve been signed up to.”

ENDS

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