Withdraw the Data and Statistics Bill

“The Data and Statistics Bill is a step backwards for transparent and open government,” says Anne Tolley, Chair of Transparency International NZ.

“We believe that allowing the Government statistician to delegate their powers to others fractures the long standing constitutional divide between statistics and government policy making. There is no urgency for this change; take time to get it right,” says Mrs Tolley

We agree with the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties (NZCCL) that the Data and Statistics Bill gets the trade-off between people’s and companies’ privacy and the broader public good of well-informed decision making wrong. It is bad and unbalanced legislation.

“The bottom line is that this Bill dangerously conflates collection and use of data for the purpose of official statistics with collecting and sharing data for unspecified research,” the NZCCL asserts.

According to former chief statistician Len Cook:

"The moment you transfer the authority and all the powers of the government statistician to someone who is more directly connected to a minister, and themselves has a role in keeping ministers’ content, is a very different thing."

“Challenges in New Zealand to the authority of the Government Statistician on statistical matters are quite rare, unlike many other countries. Providing those whose main activities would prevent them bringing the same certainty of impartiality as the Government Statistician does brings needless risks at any time. In 2004, several Greek agencies contrived to falsify Greek economic statistics, and the impact remains. Some months ago, in our own neighborhood, the chief statistician of Fiji was dumped for political reasons. Let’s treasure what has worked well since 1912."

The NZCCL has just published a Briefing on the Data and Statistics Bill and is distributing it to ministers today.

We urge Parliament to withdraw this bill and maintain the independence of the Government Statistician.

Anne Tolley
Transparency International New Zealand

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