Green Party's tranparency questioned

The Green Part has been accused of lack of transparency in two recent situations. The first was the claimed media lockdown during Green's annual conference and the second was Julie Ann Genter's refusal to release a letter she had sent to Phil Twyford.

I do get frustrated when journalist's succumb to emotive reporting and do not apply due diligence to ensure balance and logic.

The majority of the 2019 conference was dominated by the Party's Annual General Meeting, this involved some substantial remits and election of officers, including all leadership positions. I have attended Green Party AGM's for the last fourteen years and can't remember one that allowed a media presence. This was not an unprecedented "lock down" but standard practice, as it is for many other organisations that enforce member only restrictions.

James Shaw's concerns about balanced reporting of our conferences are completely valid from my experience. I have noted that media in the past were overly-keen to reinforce stereotypes and it was common for film crews to hone in on individuals with beards or "hippy" style clothes. The Greens have a diverse membership and most present as ordinary kiwis. A 2014 report on that year's Green conference did acknowledge that the Party didn't fit past characterisations and also described the closed sessions that have always been a feature.

Julie Ann Genter's refusal to make public a letter to Phil Twyford is another beat up that is similar in substance to the fabricated controversy around Winston Peters' refusal to release a document of policy commitments that were still being negotiated with Labour. As both the Prime Minister and Peters' explained any agreement would be made public but the negotiations are an internal process.

Genter's letter was written using her Associate Minister letterhead, which may have been an error, but the contents were part of an internal negotiation process, not the operations of a Ministry. Not releasing the letter protected the ability to have free and frank discussions. Given that the final decisions around Wellington's transport plan were widely supported there seems to be little purpose (other than mischief-making) to scrutinise the internal discussions that led to the plan.

These beat ups distract people from appreciating the Green Party's constant push for increasing Government transparency:
One of the Green Party's four principles is Appropriate Decision Making and that includes transparency and inclusion of those who will be impacted by any decision. When decisions are made and public funds are spent, then these need to have public scrutiny. However, free and frank internal discussions are difficult to have under a media spotlight and the knowledge that anything said may be misinterpreted for political gain or the purpose of audience titillation. It would be nice to have complete transparency of all meetings and discussions but this clearly isn't a possibility within the real world of politics and social media gossip. 


Robert Guyton said…
They pinged Julie Anne on her use of the Parliamentary letterhead for conveying Green Party views; fair enough; she's learned.
bsprout said…
Got that, and it does muddy things somewhat. However, her advice focussed on the content and intent. Given that the final plan was widely supported it makes National's intent a little suspect. Remember John Key's argument to avoid answering a question was that he made a statement as the leader of the National Party, not as PM? There is a high level of hypocrisy too. ;-)
Simon Cohen said…
However, in an extraordinary display in the House yesterday, she admitted that the letter was written on her ministerial letterhead – in every formal sense, it was composed by the associate transport minister, not by Julie Anne Genter, Green MP.
Therefore the argument you are putting forward collapses.
bsprout said…
Simon, Robert Guyton made the same point and it may have indeed been in error to use the ministerial letterhead, but the content was determined to be more of a party position than in her capacity as associate minister as she explained. Given that the final transport plan has been widely supported I think this is a determined beat up from National to find something to exploit out of all proportion. I note that conservative Wellington councillors have made wild accusations of Green MP threats behind negotiations, I know this to be a fabrication.

I will adjust my post to acknowledge the use of the letterhead.

Simon Cohen said…
You appear to want to have it both ways.Who determined that the content was to be more of a party position.
The fact remains that this was a communication between the associate minister for transport and the minister for transport and therefore is subject to the scrutiny by the House.
I voted for the Greens because they stated they would be a transparent and open government.
Forget your own political leanings and look at this issue in an unbiased way and try to avoid comments like a beat up by National.
And also look at the list of Wellington councillors who have reported comments by Justin Lester.They are by no means all conservatives.
And think about Lester's own statements.Do they ring true.Either he is lying or [by the latest count]8 councillors are.
bsprout said…
I must admit that it has become quite messy and I wrote the post before the revelation that Julie Ann used her Associate Minister letterhead. It could be the result of political naivety that she did it, not thinking that the existence of the letter would be revealed and it does seem as if the contents may allow National to create a political beat up regarding an element of Julie Ann's positions.

It also appears as if Justin Lester may have spoken unwisely when championing the plan.

I guess we will just need to wait for the ombudsman's determination and deal with the consequences.

One difficulty for the Greens is that being a values based party opens it to criticism if it appears to deviate from those values. It is much easier for National when they can support tax havens and paying a Saudi farmer millions in a bribe with no real consequences. I hope this letter affair is not treated out of proportion its actual importance.
Simon Cohen said…
You say:

I do get frustrated when journalist's succumb to emotive reporting

but unfortunately you stoop to the same level with your comments such as a National Party political beat up and:

One difficulty for the Greens is that being a values based party opens it to criticism if it appears to deviate from those values. It is much easier for National when they can support tax havens and paying a Saudi farmer millions in a bribe with no real consequences.

I am and have been a Green Party voter for more years than I care to remember but I hope I can be critical of their actions when they do transgress in a frank and open manner without having to make denigrating comments about their opponents as if to excuse them.
bsprout said…
Simon, the Wellington transport plan has rapidly shifted from being widely supported as a great step forward to one where the process to achieve it has become mired in controversy. It may very well be that Julie Ann's advice regarding her letter will be over-ruled by the Ombudsmen and Justin Lester may have applied some unnecessary pressure in getting the plan over the line with his council. However, we can't ignore the intentions of National's strategy is to try and demonise Julie Ann as someone who hates cars to appeal to their supporters. As far as I'm concerned it is a beat up that has become a common and dishonest right wing meme.

My reference to emotive reporting was mainly in relation to the headlines that claimed a "media lockdown" that was overly dramatic and ignored the past history of Green Conferences excluding media from the AGM element of the conference. I think this was fair.

The Green Party is not perfect, we are all human, and it does make it difficult to criticise National when the Green Party released a video that ridiculed Simon Bridges. It was the strength of the membership's adherence to Party values that saw video withdrawn almost immediately.

The point of my post was not to excuse Green actions that may be questionable but to try and ensure what is reported is balanced. Part of my motivation is because the party has suffered some very vicious attacks in the past that have shown total disregard to what would be fair and reasonable. What happened to Metiria Turia after she admitted benefit fraud is a good example. The Green Party should take some responsibility for the lack of a supporting strategy behind Metiria's speech and the managing the fallout, however, the level of vitriol and pure racism that underpinned the attacks from political opponents and right wing media was extreme. There will be many in New Zealand who will believe that she is basically a disgraced criminal and ignore the bravery of opening a real debate around benefit poverty and her 15 years as capable MP and party leader. The $7,000 or so Metiria dishonestly gained while a struggling solo mum was nothing compared to Bill English's dishonest manipulation of the system to acquire $40,000 of taxpayer funds to subsidise his Wellington mansion as a privileged minister during a housing crisis. Many independent commentators remarked on the lack of fairness in Metiria's treatment but they were drowned out by the dominance of MSM right wing commentators at the time.

National needs a coalition partner if it is ever going to regain the govt benches and in the absence of that it will probably see the destruction of Labour's main political ally as a useful strategy. I am already seeing elements of a campaign to discredit Green MPs leading into the 2020 Campaign. Sarah Dowie's dishonest attacks directed at Eugenie Sage regarding the whitebait management plan is part of this. We would be naive to ignore National's past record and the depths its supporters go to destroy those in opposition.

In summary I think that it is important to demand that the Green Party adheres to its values and is open to criticism but it is also reasonable to ask for some balance in reporting and exposing political manipulation where it occurs.
Simon Cohen said…
I see that:
"Outside of parliament's bear pit, the most significant voice to join growing calls for the letter's release is Greater Wellington Regional Council's sustainable transport committee deputy chairman Daran Ponter.
As a Labour councillor he broke ranks with Labour minister Twyford by saying on the record he wanted the letter to be released in the interests of transparency."
Without trying to put arguments for or against the plan[though I have to say I generally agree with it]I have to say your comment that it is widely supported is doubtful to say the least.A number of Labour Party politicians here in Wellington have quietly voiced there concerns and if the mayor had not been a leading Labour Party member I think the doubts would have been far more widely circulated.
It is important for people like you [and me] to not been bound up in the bubble so to speak and to realise that there are many intelligent and well meaning people who hold views contrary to ours and in some cases history may show them to be correct.
In my opinion you make the age old mistake of thinking my part right or wrong.
bsprout said…
Simon, I think that we are largely on the same page and I am quite aware of the many intelligent people who may not support my politics as I am on a number of committees and boards where that is the case. I am also quite prepared to accept where I may be wrong. Since I first wrote the post more has been revealed than I originally had knowledge of and our exchanges here have helped flesh that out. I even edited my original post to recognise this and stated my openness to any decision that the ombudsman may determine.

However, just so that you are aware that my thinking is not just coming from a green tinged bubble, today's Southland Times Editorial mirrors my concerns regarding National's intent and further justifies my call for fairness in reporting. I hoped to provide a link but it is not available online yet.

Popular posts from this blog

The US is actually unique for not valuing life!

Composting - the circular economy starts at home.

NZ now ranks at bottom of developed world