What has been intresting about all those Covid-19 documents is that it
appears reporters have not found them particularly interesting - far
from being buried, they are readily available, but obviously the
"gotcha' addicts haven't found much to get excited about.
Post by JohnO
Completely unacceptable and disgraceful. This government has hit peak 3-term arrogance before completing even a single term.
There are some parts of the article that I believe most people will
agree - this is an important budget, being prepared under difficult
circumstances. His description of what 'normally" happens is
"Normally, the people most interested in fiscal policy sign up for the
'lock up' - a vetted group of people, mostly the media but also the
likes of bank economists and sectoral lobbyists - who on Budget day
get access (usually mid-morning) to the Budget documents ahead of
their release, subject to a time embargo. The deal is, if you've got a
strong interest in fiscal policy, and Treasury agrees you're a player
in that space, you get to see the stuff in a controlled environment,
and with the advantage of the preparation time, you will be able to
provide informed commentary, but (because of the agreed embargo) not
before the Minister of Finance does his thing in the House. Works for
everyone. I've been in lots of them."
The problem with that is that of course we are not in normal times. I
can imagine changes being potentially made to the budget that morning.
We are in an electronic age, but high speed printing can get enough
copies for the whole house in a relatively short period. Importantly,
in level 3, we should be seen to minimise gatherings unless they are
very important. Presumably they will have to ensure appropriate
distancing, and that will men that there is less room available than
for the 2019 budget, but in essence the lock-up is actually less
important than it used to be.
I can remember staying at work until late on budget day for quite a
few years ready to write up a newsletter to get to the news media for
the next day commentary and also to clients. In some cases budget
annoucments meant that there would be reccomendations for action the
next day, but over time that has become less important. The news media
wanted people to praise or criticise based on sectional interests;
usually it was quite shallow - either we got what we had asked for or
we didn't; big issues would take a few days for considered responses.
So if we are really serious about fighting Covid-19 and keeping safe,
why even have a lock-up? Whoever is able to answer queries in lock up
(it hasn't always been the Minister) could well get on with other
work, or answer queries after the budget is read in the House. It
would be possible for the budget to be "published"on a website as it
is spoken - much more a 'level playing field"when you think about it.
I see that Donal Curtin now works for Acuity - he has previously been
with a bank and on the Commerce Commission. He has probably enjoyed
past lock-ups, and added value for his employer, but this is not an
issue of being open and transparent; it is practicality and paying due
attention to safety.