Registrar of Pecuniary Interests Margaret Bazley, the country’s busiest pensioner, has presented recommendations for improving the transparency of MPs’ financial interests. It seems like good stuff, but it ignores the elephant in the room.
As has been repeatedly shown these last couple of years, the Register of Pecuniary Interests can be worked around by MPs, such as John Key, who want to keep assets while not revealing that those assets create a conflict of interest in their official duties.
To address this, Bazley recommends that MPs be obligated to reveal share transactions whenever they take place, rather than providing a once annual snapshot of assets held on a single day. She also recommends that the trusts, which MPs use either for tax avoidance or hiding their conflicts of interest, be partially broken open by requiring MPs to list all real estate holdings regardless of whether they are held by a trust or not. She also said MPs should have to disclose all their directorships, voting rights, and business interests no matter the companies’ trading status.
Unfortunately, Bazley hasn’t recommended breaking open the trusts entirely. It will still be possible for MPs to follow in John Key’s footsteps – get their lawyer mates to set up a ‘blind’ trust with them as a beneficiary, and have that trust own a sub-company to hold their assets giving them the ability to monitor their assets without anyone else knowing that they own them, and hide conflicts of interest.