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:
- When Green MPs released their expenses it forced the John Key led government to follow suit. We can now scrutinise each MP's spending and I'm sure it has led to a more circumspect approach from MPs when they spend public funds.
- When there has been little transparency regarding the Government's contact with lobbyists Green Ministers have publicly released their ministerial diaries to encourage others to follow suit. This did occur in December last year when it became an expectation for all ministerial diaries.
- The Green Party has also been advocating for greater transparency around the costing of election policies. The suggestion of Treasury being given the ability to do an independent cost/benefit analysis of campaign policies would provide some voter confidence around the practicalities of promises. If this had been done when the National Party promoted its "Roads of National Significance" it would have immediately stopped the waste of public money on a number of nonviable projects.
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.