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'A pattern of disdain for the public's right to know' - court decision likely to change Govt's attitude to OIA

A High Court ruling ordering Trade Minister Tim Groser to reconsider his refusal to release documents relating to the TPPA may force a change in the Government’s behaviour regarding the Official Information Act.

Law professor Jane Kelsey led an application for a judicial review over Mr Groser’s decision not to release Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement details under the Official Information Act.

In his judgement on that judicial review, Justice David Collins declared: "I believe the appropriate course to follow in this case is to quash the Minister’s decision refusing professor Kelsey’s request and direct the minister to reconsider his decision.

"The minister's affidavit and the chief ombudsman’s report reveal that there was no lawful basis for the minister to withhold, in the way he did, some of the information requested by professor Kelsey.”

This is part of a pattern of disdain that we’ve seen for the public’s right to know - Green Party co-leader James Shaw

Prime Minister John Key’s response was that he believed the ruling said Mr Groser should have read all the documents before he made the decision on whether or not to release them.

Mr Key said Mr Groser’s decision not to release any documents relating to the TPPA was supported by the ombudsman.

"We’ll now need to have the officials go over and review that and just determine what the next steps are; whether the Government wants to appeal that decison," Mr Key said.

"And if they don’t then obviously there’ll have to be a change in behaviour going forward."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw welcomed the High Court ruling.

"I think that what the court decision shows is that Tim Groser was inconsistent with the law and that he needs to get his act in line with the law," Mr Shaw said

"This is part of a pattern of disdain that we’ve seen for the public’s right to know.

"John Key himself has already said that they (the Government) tend to ignore or decline requests (under the Official Information Act) that are inconvenient for them or that don’t suit their interests, and we’ve said before that that is against the (Official Information) Act and I think that that’s been proven in court today."