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Transparency, but not at privacy's expense
The Sunday Star-Times tried and failed to find out the names and overall numbers of New Zealanders who had turned down honours. About a year or so ago the Republican Movement tried to get the figures for those who had turned down honours, with similar difficulty. We did in the end get a rough figure of 10% of those offered honours rejecting them, but that was over the lifetime of the New Zealand honours system since it was established in 1996. To quote myself:
"The secrecy in terms of who's turned down what is ridiculous," said Lewis Holden, the chairman of the New Zealand Republican Movement.
"We fear there's a lot of politics going on behind the scenes as to who actually gets an honour. If it's really about honouring New Zealanders then it should be transparent."
I also said that the Republican Movement accepts individuals have an absolute right to privacy, and that should come first. However, withholding the numbers rejecting honours is ridiculous - they're basic statistics that the public should know about. The letter from the acting Clerk of the Executive Council is the typical parade of excuses for withholding the information - including the confidentiality of advice to the Sovereign.
This secrecy is just another example of why the honours secretariat should not be part of the Prime Minister's department. It politicises the awarding of honours and makes a mockery of New Zealanders who have earned the recognition, especially for those doing hard work in their communities.