web analytics
The Standard
Advertising

Shine some sunlight on lobbying

Written By: - Date published: 9:38 am, April 17th, 2012 - 17 comments
Categories: accountability, political alternatives - Tags: , , ,

When political lobbyists and campaign “donations” dominate the political process, is it really a democracy any more? Case in point, America, democracy or a plutocracy in Cartier drag?

Like most democracies, NZ is some way down that path. But The Greens have proposed taking at least one useful step back:

Greens’ bill rips veil off lobbying

Lobbyists who try to sway politicians behind closed doors could face tougher scrutiny under proposed legislation.

Activities such as dinners with the prime minister and watching rugby games from corporate boxes would need to be disclosed through registers proposed under the Green Party bill.

Searchable registers overseas mean it is easier to find out which New Zealand businesses have been bending the ears of politicians in Washington DC, Ottawa and Canberra, than at home.

Green Party MP Holly Walker’s Lobbying Disclosure Bill, modelled on the Canadian version, aims to bring transparency to MPs dealings with lobbyists.

Such transparency is a necessary part of a more open and democratic political process (though by no means sufficient of course, America apparently has similar legislation already in place). Anthony Hubbard has a good overview of the issues surrounding the new Bill and the range of opinion on it.

I would have expected the Nats to have rejected such a bill out of hand. I am pleasantly surprised to be proved wrong, at least so far:

Prime Minister John Key has thrown National’s support behind a move to force political lobbying out from the shadows and into the open. He says National will conditionally support the Greens’ bill to make lobbying more transparent. …

“I’m fundamentally not opposed to a bill that might register what lobbyists are up to,” says Prime Minister John Key.
A Green Party bill will soon go before Parliament seeking to have paid lobbyists register which MPs they meet and what they are talking about.

National’s support is conditional to the select committee stage only.

“We are an outlier,” says Mr Key. “Most other countries have some kind of disclosure regime and we don’t. It’s worth looking at.” …

If National carries on and continues to support the bill, then credit where it’s due, I will be impressed. How about we then take the logical next step, and clean up money in politics? Of course that would mean the Nats doing away with the trusts that launder their donations. How about it John?

17 comments on “Shine some sunlight on lobbying”

  1. Kotahi Tane Huna 1

    If the National Party stops soliciting and receiving bribes, how will they cope with abandoning their entire philosophy?

  2. alex 2

    I wrote about this a few days ago here:
    http://afinetale.blogspot.co.nz/2012/04/how-many-parties-will-sign-up-to-this.html
    When it seemed like National would not sign up to this. It isn’t really in their interests to have more transparency around money in politics, they were by far the biggest spenders at the last election. However I’m glad they look like doing something in the interests of voters for a change.

    • muzza 2.1

      “I’m glad they look like doing something in the interests of voters for a change”

      – “Look like” – Its only about manageing the perception, nothing more than that!

  3. felix 3

    I note that Matthew Hooten, a prominent lobbyist, is very supportive of this bill.

    • That’s because it only requires registration of lobbying and doesn’t actually restrict it- from his view it sanitises his business with only the minor extra cost of dealing with the regulation.

      So, let’s not get ahead of ourselves- this is only good news from National if they support it all the way through. Still, they’re likely to get plenty of input, so that’s certainly possible if some stumbling block doesn’t emerge.

    • Lanthanide 3.2

      Probably just so he can keep tabs on his opposition.

  4. Bored 4

    I see the Cameron scandal where the Vice Chancellor sold his time to lobbyists has been quietly “media managed” from the spotlight.

  5. Tangled up in blue 5

    If probably looks better if National at least let the Bill go before Parliament rather than declaring a premature veto.

  6. vto 6

    Good move by the Greens. Lobbying in many of its guises is simply a minor form of corruption.

    It should also extend to past Members and especially past Ministers. These people should not be able to use their contacts and knowledge and etc of the system to personally advance themselves post-MP status. For example, Simon Power at Westpac. How much will his previous and current roles overlap and to what purpose are they being applied?

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      Society is social and hierarchical and success is more about who you know than what you know. Those who don’t socialise well or socialise with the wrong people will forever be “unsuccessful” no matter how hard they work.

    • If they’re being paid, they’ll be covered. If they’re not being paid to lobby, then I’m not sure how you could cover them without getting into situations where interest groups and ordinary citizens would be required to file paperwork for lobbying too, which is getting slightly ridiculous. If you cover ex-MPs the same way you cover current MPs, you’re wading into murky territory, as we have thousands of ex-MPs at any one time- do you propose that everyone from business who has a discussion with one of them should need to register?

      What’s really important is extending this to cover officials as well as sitting MPs, because often lobbyists will go directly to the people providing advice or doing the policy drafts.

  7. Great idea.
    Looking forward to seeing the lists of people involved in Lobbying Parliamentarians.
    Assume it will include Commercial Lobby groups, Trade Unionists, Greenpeace and their associates, Mainstream Media – eg TV channels, Newspapers and Magazines. Grey Power.
    University Hierarchy. Maori Iwi – or will they be excluded ?
    Sure can think of others later but this will be a start.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 7.1

      Yep – and then the National Party will have to explain why it represents the desires of the tiny minority (commercial lobby) groups against organisations with democratic structures and/or large membership numbers.

    • mike e 7.2

      footrot 99% of the lobbyists are from big business .They have swipe cards which allows them unfettered access to parliament.
      None of the groups you name above have said access!

  8. burt 8

    It’s an excellent proposal. Now get it past the dinosaur major parties…. Key’s comments quoted above are sufficiently loose for him to take any stance as this progresses. Typical PM slippery speak.

    Oh, and has anyone got any links to anything Winston Peters has said about this?

Important links

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • English breaks his $6000 wages promise
    Just one month into the new year Bill English has already rowed back on his election promise of real wage rises for New Zealanders, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “During the election campaign National promised Kiwis that the average… ...
    4 days ago
  • National fails to produce evidence justifying attack on RMA
    The National Government is misusing evidence provided in the Motu report on planning rules to justify gutting the environmental protections secured by the Resource Management Act (RMA), says the Green Party today. The Motu group's research into the impacts of… ...
    GreensBy Julie Anne Genter MP
    4 days ago
  • National fails to produce evidence justifying attack on RMA
    The National Government is misusing evidence provided in the Motu report on planning rules to justify gutting the environmental protections secured by the Resource Management Act (RMA), says the Green Party today. The Motu group's research into the impacts of… ...
    GreensBy Julie Anne Genter MP
    4 days ago
  • RMA changes won’t knock a dollar off the cost of a new home
    The Government’s proposed changes to the RMA won’t increase the number of affordable homes or knock a dollar off the cost of building a new house, Labour Leader Andrew Little says.  “Tinkering with the RMA will not solve National’s housing… ...
    5 days ago
  • What is the real ‘price of the club’?
    What price is too high to join a club?  According to the current the New Zealand Prime Minister, the lives of young Kiwi men and women are a part of the package. In his latest BBC interview, John Key fails… ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham MP
    5 days ago
  • DOC debacle means hundreds may have missed out on fishing licences
    Hundreds of families and recreational fishers may have had their holidays spoiled by missing out on their fishing licences, with Conservation Minister Maggie Barry preferring instead to focus on more high profile portfolio priorities over the summer break, Labour’s Conservation… ...
    6 days ago
  • Effective action needed against pirate fishing boats
    New Zealand’s failure to detain pirate shipping vessels poaching endangered species in our region is simply not good enough, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says. “We send New Zealand naval vessels to the Arabian Gulf to board pirate ships there… ...
    6 days ago
  • Housing affordability crisis gets worse under National
    News that Auckland’s housing is now among the 10 most unaffordable in the world confirms the Government’s housing policy has failed, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “After six years in power, National’s housing policies have not fixed the housing… ...
    1 week ago
  • Rheumatic fever rates continue to soar despite millions spent on prevention...
    The Government’s $65 million spend on rheumatic fever prevention has made little impact on the alarmingly high rate of the disease among young New Zealanders, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “Latest figures from ESR show there were 235 notified… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Speech to the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum in Quito, Ecuador
    I was honoured to speak to the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum, calling for cooperation and action on climate change. You can read my speech below. Greetings from New Zealand in our first language – kia ora nga mihi nui… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Government wipes off $5 billion in tax debt
    Since coming to office, the National Government has written off $5 billion* in tax debt owed by more than a million, Labour MP Stuart Nash says. "There are two sides to the New Zealand economy under the National government: the… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour adds its condemnation of Paris attack
    The Labour Party adds its voice to the international condemnation of today’s shocking attack on freedom of speech in Paris, Leader Andrew Little says. “The attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper is an assault on democracy and freedom of expression.… ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Petrol retailers and importers must pass on savings
    New Zealand’s petrol retailers and importers must start passing on savings to Kiwis motorists following the dramatic drop in the price of crude oil, Labour’s Energy Spokesman Stuart Nash says. “It is great news for Kiwi drivers that the price… ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Foreign investors must uphold their promises
    The Government must ensure foreign investors uphold their commitment to add value to sensitive New Zealand assets* they purchase, after new figures show National has declined just 1.5 per cent of all applications, Labour’s Land Information spokesperson Stuart Nash says. … ...
    3 weeks ago

Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere