I got a reply today from the Prime Minister's office. That is to the letter I wrote asking him to remind the Hon Steven Joyce about the sub judice rule, after Joyce used a NZ Government press release and a TV1 'Breakfast' appearance, promoting coal miner Bathurst Resources in its court cases over the resource consents needed to operate an opencast coal mine in a conservation area on the Denniston Plateau south of Solid Energy's Stockton Mine.
Dear Mr Johnson
On behalf of the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, I acknowledge your email of 27 September 2012. Please be assured your comments have been noted.
As the issue you have raised falls within the portfolio responsibility of the Minister for Economic Development, Hon Steven Joyce, your email has been forwarded to his office for consideration.
Thank you for taking the time to write to the Prime Minister.
Regards [name removed]
Executive Assistant | Office of the Prime Minister Private Bag 18041 | Parliament Buildings | Wellington 6160 | New Zealand
I felt like replying that if I wanted to write to Steven Joyce, I would have addressed the letter to him. There was a specific reason to write to the Prime Minister. It is because he is responsible under the Cabinet Manual for holding his Minister's accountable. So I replied as follows.
Dear [name removed]
Thank you for your email where you advise that the matter I raised (on 27 September 2012) falls within the portfolio responsibility of the Minister for Economic Development, the Hon Steven Joyce and that my letter has been forwarded to his office for consideration.
However, I was not writing about either mining or economic development 'per se'. I was writing specifically and deliberately to the Prime Minister about what appeared to me to be a breach of the 'sub judice' rule by the Hon Steven Joyce.
I decided to write to the Prime Minister because of section 2.53 of the Cabinet Manual which states that the Prime Minister has the role of holding Ministers accountable for upholding the highest ethical standards, which I would presume meant requiring Ministers to observe the 'sub judice' rule.
Therefore I am not interested in a reply from the Hon Steven Joyce. At the moment I do not feel at all assured that my comments have been noted. I will consider my comments have been noted if I receive a considered reply addressing the sub judice issue and the Minister's duty to the Prime Minister to observe the highest ethical standards.
I wonder what response I will get to that!