Jane Kelsey: Groser avoids principled reconsideration of TPPA information request despite Court orders

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Professor Jane Kelsey.

Source: Professor Jane Kelsey.

Professor Jane Kelsey.
Professor Jane Kelsey.

A month ago the High Court ordered Trade Minister Tim Groser to reconsider an Official Information Act request from Professor Jane Kelsey, dated January 2015, relating to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

‘The Minister has finally responded, fobbing off the request with further delays and procedural wrangling, despite a request that he treat the matter with urgency’, Professor Kelsey said.

In relation to Cabinet mandates, one of the categories requested, the Minister says the documents have been collated but no officials will be available to review them until after 5 February 2016 – conveniently the first date on which the TPPA can be signed following the expiry of President Obama’s 90-day notification to the US Congress of his intention to do so. Professor Kelsey notes there is no guarantee when or if any of those documents will actually be released.

The remaining categories of information are deemed to require too much research and collation and Professor Kelsey has been asked to reduce their scope – something, she observes, could and should have been sought back in February.

‘The Minister continues to display the arrogance that has marked these entire negotiations’, says Kelsey. ‘In his closing remarks, Justice Collins observed that

the Act plays a significant role in New Zealand’s constitutional and democratic arrangements.  It is essential the Act’s meaning and purpose is fully honoured by those required to consider the release of official information.

The Minister has manifestly failed to do that’.

The judge reserved the right for the applicants to return to court within six months should his belief that formal declarations were not required prove erroneous. An application will shortly be filed in accordance with that right.

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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