10 Dec 2018

Government ministers' meetings to be made public from next year

7:19 am on 10 December 2018

Government ministers are trying to shake the image of shady politicians holding secret meetings by opening up their diaries.

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Photo: mshmeljov/123RF

The State Services Minister will announce today that for the first time all government ministers will publicly release details of their internal and external meetings from early next year.

The government has long been vowing to be the most open and transparent the country has ever seen.

However, the last twelve months has seen a minister quit over failing to disclose meetings and some ministers have slipped up in their responses to written parliamentary questions.

Who has been meeting whom will all be revealed next year with the first batch of diaries being published in February.

The details released will include the date, start and finish time, a brief description, location, who the meeting was with and the ministerial portfolio involved.

It will all be published on the Beehive website within 15 business days of the end of each month.

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins said there would be some exceptions and if there were good grounds for a meeting not to be released then it would not be.

"I think there's increasing public interest in who senior politicians are meeting with. We're seeing that through written parliamentary questions, through OIAs, through media questions, and I think that there's a really good reason to just be open and transparent about that.

"There isn't anything sinister about who politicians meet with, actually it shows that New Zealand government is very open."

NZ First MP Shane Jones admitted he was not so keen on the idea.

"I've got to put my hand up, I was probably the laggard. But at the end of the day I'm from the school of thought you have your say and if your kōrero doesn't carry the day then play by the rules.''

Mr Jones has received a number of written questions - about 5000 - some of which got him into trouble.

Last month it was revealed he had to correct 20 answers to the National Party after he failed to disclose 61 meetings.

He is not the only one who has had trouble with his dairy though.

Former government minister Clare Curran was demoted and subsequently quit her ministerial portfolios after failing to disclose separate meetings with then RNZ head of news Carol Hirschfeld and tech entrepreneur Derek Handley.

Prior to that, the Green Party had announced it was releasing its ministerial diaries on a quarterly basis.

But today's announcement goes further - something the party's co-leader James Shaw is happy about.

"We were the first political party in government to do that proactive release. So we just developed a system first time out, to see how it went.

"The fact the government is able to build on that I'm really pleased about.''

Mr Shaw and Mr Hipkins were both keen to see the National Party follow suit.

Mr Hipkins said this was an opportunity for everyone to get on the same page and be upfront about who was meeting whom.

"I think the opposition have been pushing for greater transparency around who ministers are meeting with.

"I'd encourage them to be releasing their diary information so New Zealanders can make their own judgements about them.''

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