Sociologist Jarrod Gilbert has a column in the Herald about police censorship of his research. It’s all very sinister on its own but it’s related to a deeper problem in the public service that got bad under Clark and is now so much worse under Key, and that is the transformation of the public service into a giant public relations machine for the government of the day. All sectors of the public service now have large communications departments and their primary role is to ‘manage risk’ for the Minister, Director/CEO and the rest of the organisation, in that order.
What if this risk mitigation conflicts with their obligations as a public servant to serve and inform the public? Well, ‘the public’ can’t fire them, or give them a bonus or a promotion, and the head of their organisation can. So all of the incentives are for them to censor research, fight OIAs and generally mislead the public. Identifying and ‘managing’ risk from academic researchers is just a natural progression of that culture.