David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Collins grants blogger's request in just 37 minutes

Judith Collins' office has says it has always complied with the legal guidelines, which require an OIA response inside a maximum 20 working days.
Judith Collins' office has says it has always complied with the legal guidelines, which require an OIA response inside a maximum 20 working days.

Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater got a response to an Official Information Act request from Justice Minister Judith Collins in just 37 minutes.

He received another OIA response with just a five-hour turnaround by Ms Collins' office - including being given correspondence which had come in just that day.

Documents released to the Herald through the act show Slater made three requests in relation to Canadian jurist Ian Binnie's report, which recommended David Bain be paid compensation after being found not guilty of killing his family in Dunedin.

According to the documents, Slater made two requests as editor of the now-defunct Truth in December 2012 and a third in February 2013.

The first came on the same day as a Herald on Sunday verbal request for copies of information provided to campaigner Joe Karam, including a copy of a letter sent to Mr Karam which Mr Bain's first lawyer, Michael Guest, had written to Mrs Collins.

The same information was provided to Slater, who asked at 1.27pm for almost identical information with a slightly different phrasing.

Collins press secretary Rachael Bowie sent him the information at 6.11pm, adding: "Also attached is an email from Michael Guest received by this office today." The email held a detailed account attacking Mr Bain's position, which was featured in the next edition of Truth.

On February 12, a Monday, Slater made another OIA request. It was for the same material the National Business Review had been provided the Friday before. Slater's OIA request was sent at 9.53am to Ms Bowie who responded 37 minutes later.

Slater's third request was filed in December and responded to in March with a cluster of others which sought broad amounts of information.

Ms Collins' office has told the Weekend Herald it has always complied with the legal guidelines laid out in the act, which require a response inside a maximum 20 working days.

Labour's justice spokesman, Andrew Little, said he had never had an OIA response back from Ms Collins' office in under 20 working days.

Labour Party MP Grant Robertson told TV3's The Nation it was "pretty much unheard" to receive an OIA response so quickly.

"It's a good time for a pizza delivery - 37 minutes - but you'd never expect that from an OIA."

Ms Collins' swift response to the request looked like "favourable treatment", Mr Robertson said.

"It fits into a pattern of behaviour that we've seen from Judith Collins with relation to Cameron Slater. Friday night having a request processed, it just doesn't happen."

It looked like Slater knew what to ask for, he said.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman told The Nation the government had established a system where there was a "friendly face" to the public, but "behind the scenes they're working directly with Slater".

"And so he's the dark operations and does all the really nasty attack stuff, but he's doing it hand in glove with John Key, Judith Collins and all the rest of them.

"It's the system that they established that keeps them looking nice and clean and friendly while at the same running these attack campaigns against anyone who gets in their way."

- NZ Herald

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