Democratic commitment and the New Zealand Official Secrets Act : contradiction in terms (1980)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree NameMaster of Arts
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
AuthorsTurnbull, Peter Geoffreyshow all
Information and access to it, is a vital ingredient in the democratic model. Government secrecy however inhi bits the flow of information to citizens. This denial of fu.Ll and accurate information stunts and weakens public debate.
The Official Secrets Act by it's existance and intent, helps to perpetuate official secrecy. It is a vague Act of illdefined meanings, and grants wide powers of arrest and conviction, powers which can be used at the discretion of a government. It has dangerous potential as a discretionary political weapon, and could be employed to silence or harass critics.
Reform of the Act is a necessary part of any programme designed to reverse the trend to official secrecy and to bring about more open government. However, reform takes time and effort and may not always be successful. It requires either exclusion of the executive from the reform process, or sustained public opinion pressure to force a government or a potential government to reform the secrecy system.
In New Zealand there is a rising expectation that citizens are entitled to know what a government is doing, but it is not at a level that will ensure significant reform of government secrecy and the Official Secrets Act.