28 Nov 2017

New govt has 'no follow through' - National

7:02 am on 28 November 2017

National is labelling the new government secretive, saying it is back-sliding on its pledge to be open and transparent.

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Photo: RNZ

The National Party has demanded the release of what it says is a "secret" coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First.

The Prime Minister has said she will not release notes made during coalition talks because they were not a formal document, despite her deputy saying they would be publicly released.

The eight-page coalition deal between Labour and New Zealand First was released when the two parties signed the agreement.

But deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said later said there was also a longer document that would be made public eventually.

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would not see the light of day in its current form even if reporters asked for it under the Official Information Act.

"I have not had it in front of me since I was leader of the Labour Party in opposition, it has not been distributed to ministers, so under that classification I do not consider it to be a formal document for the purposes of the OIA."

But she did clarify that any parts of it which became government policy would be made public.

"Every government before they release anything that is something that is still being discussed, if it's a policy that is still under development, that may not ever formally see the light of day because it's found to be, for instance, simply unaffordable.

"Every government maintains the right to keep that back until that work has been done, we are not unusual in that regard."

Mr Peters said the document was now about 33 pages long - but there was a lot of work to be done on some of the things in it.

He gave the example of working on new ways to measure economic growth and unemployment.

"The idea of saying a person who's getting one hour's work a week means they're employed is without any sense of sympathy, without any sense of reality and without any understanding of that person's circumstances and we know we can do better than that, so we've agreed to work on those things.

"When we've completed that work we'll tell you what the outcome is."

In the Speech from the Throne, the government pledged to strengthen transparency around official information.

But National's leader Bill English said the government was running according to outdated standards from the early 2000s, when they were last in power.

"By any international standard the last government was open and transparent, and this government, as with many other things, has expressed these high-minded intentions and then fails to follow through."

Mr English said the previous National-led government lifted the bar a long way on transparency.

"We stressed the early release of cabinet papers, the full release of budget documents, including draft reports which had not really been done before.

"The extensive release of data because that's such an important part of being able to monitor what a government is doing and how it is doing it."

National Party MPs have also lodged more than 6000 questions to government ministers.

Labour has labelled the questions as spam - but Mr English said it was an attempt to get some simple information out of an increasingly secretive government.

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