When NZ First and Labour signed their coalition agreement, few people expected Winston Peters to be the beacon of transparency and Jacinda Ardern dragging him into the swamp of secrecy.

Yet as she stood beside him during her weekly post-Cabinet press conference yesterday, it looked very much that way.

Ardern was seeking to justify why she would not release a document Peters had said she would release.

Peters had revealed the existence of a 38-page document soon after signing the agreement with Labour, indicated it contained the flesh of the agreement signed and details of the way the parties would work together.


He said Ardern would release it soon.

Soon did not come and so an Official Information Act request was put in. Ardern refused to release the document.

Confronted with this, Ardern said the document Peters had put so much store on as setting a strong foundation for the coalition was mere "notes" rather than official information.

If anything became of these notes, those bits would then magically transform into official information and news of them would be released.

What Ardern was trying to say was that the coalition agreement was not a full and final settlement – but could be added to. There was, it seemed, a long wish list by NZ First which Labour had not unequivocally said "no" to.

The public might be entitled to presume that what was in the coalition agreement was the cost of NZ First's support for Labour.

It now seemed that may have been only a down payment – but nobody will know what else might be extracted until it is done.

Ardern justified this by saying she did not believe it met the criteria of "official information" that merited release.


This hovered perilously close to former Prime Minister John Key refusing to release information by claiming it happened when he was acting as party leader or a normal human being rather than as Prime Minister.

Labour railed against Key and his many hats, yet here was Ardern merrily leaping to the hat rack herself.

It came after National leader Bill English had accused Labour of being "secretive".

That is demonstrably nonsense – or at least it is still too early to tell. But in terms of proving that, it was not a good start.

Peters did little to try to save Ardern her blushes.

At points it verged on satire.

When Ardern was asked if Peters had been wrong to say it would be released, Ardern said no.

Peters then watched as she sallied down a path of tortuous illogic trying to explain why Peters had been right all along to say that a document would be released when it was not going to be released.

His contribution was to clarify that the document in question had since been whittled down to 33 pages.

Otherwise the best he could come up with was an analogy to the Bible.

"I mean Moses came down from the mountain, he only had 10 commandments, right? But there's a lot in the Old Testament as well. Get it?"

That maybe so, but the Bible is a public document.

It was like something out of Monty Python's A Life of Brian. Blessed be the cheesemakers.