In an article published on Stuff yesterday by Andrea Vance, much has been revealed of the extent to which New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is using PR teams, communications experts, and government bureaucrats to orchestrate media spin, distracting the New Zealand public from her – and her Government’s – shortcomings and failures.
On the 2017 election campaign, Ms Ardern pledged that a Government led by her would be “the most open and transparent Government New Zealand has ever had”. With yesterday morning’s revelations, New Zealand can clearly see that yet again, Ms Ardern has failed to deliver on a promise to New Zealanders.
Lobby New Zealand sees the extent to which New Zealand’s Official Information Act system is broken, and politicised. Many journalists, including Andrea Vance, have reported that under this Labour Government the system has worsened, information is more regularly being withheld, and it is harder than ever before to prise public information out of ministries. The uncomfortable position that this Labour Government has put New Zealanders in has led to many journalists having to regularly complain to the Ombudsman. Lobby New Zealand can reveal that it has filed complaints with the Ombudsman twice this year so far, including a complaint against both the New Zealand Police and the Prime Minister’s Office. When New Zealanders manage to successfully obtain information requested, time and time again they are met with obstructionary press secretaries or professional bureaucrats. Back in March, Lobby New Zealand revealed information that it had received under the Official Information Act which showed that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had publicly lied about Case L, a KFC worker who tested positive for COVID-19, multiple times during the Valentines Day COVID-19 cluster. When pressed by media over the shocking revelations, instead of the Prime Minister doing the open, transparent, and honourable thing of apologising, she deflected responsibility to the spin team in her office, with them telling Lobby New Zealand; “A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said the content of the letters have been publicly available for some time and she had no additional comment to make on them”.
The Prime Minister’s ‘spin’ team is huge. Their jobs seems to be to shield the Government from criticism, obstruct misfortune from appearing in the public eye, and shield Ms Ardern from any and all criticism. Andrea Vance’s article yesterday revealed that the Ministry for Environment has grown from 10 PR staff to 18, MFAT doubling their PR team to 25, MBIE’s staff grew from 48 to 64, and NZTA now employs 72 PR persons.
The obstruction of reality, criticism, and freedom of information under this government is unacceptable. Ms Ardern promised to lead the most open and transparent Government in history, however, her Government has been the most secretive and archaic. We must fix the Official Information Act system, we must push for transparency in Government, and we as a people must expect and demand better.
Lobby New Zealand understands the importance of a free and fair democracy. A democracy that comes with transparency to its people and accountability to its Government. Lobby New Zealand will stand up for all New Zealanders, no matter what political beliefs held, so that they may be able to source information from this Government; a government that must be open and transparent.