How close should corporate interests be allowed to cuddle up to the government? When is a gift not a gift? If it isn’t influence what is it? The Greens have raised important questions surrounding Westpac and the Nats:
Govt denies Westpac ‘buying access’ to ministers
The Government says the Green Party’s implication that Westpac Bank has bought access to ministers through generous corporate hospitality is wrong.
Replies to questions from the Greens to the Government show that nine ministers accepted hospitality from Westpac in the past year, including box seats at the Rugby Sevens, dinner at the White House restaurant in Wellington and tickets to rock concerts.
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett attended last year’s Bon Jovi concert in Wellington in the Westpac Corporate Box.
The answers also show staff of 13 ministers accepted similar hospitality from Westpac.
The Greens say ministers should not be accepting hospitality from Westpac when the Government’s master banking contract held by the bank is under review. …
MPs told cup must not runneth over
Prime Minister John Key has laid down the law to his ministers over accepting too many corporate box invitations during the Rugby World Cup.
How many is “too many” John?
His warning to be careful about the sort of hospitality ministers accept during the six-week tournament comes after the Greens questioned ministers and their staff accepting generous hospitality from Westpac Bank while the Government’s master banking contract is under review. Westpac holds the contract.
The Nats’ pet blogger is spinning so fast on this one that I can hear the high pitched whine from the Mainland. He tries to ridicule the idea that naked attempts at currying favour can have any effect at all. Its the usual stinking hypocrisy from DPF, who once hounded Winston Peters over a “scandal” involving a single free dinner. (Come to think of it the Nats took out a formal complaint over that one free meal.) Of course gifts to politicians buy influence, that’s why we have laws governing them.
More credible bloggers point out the problems. At Dim-Post:
But what if this is a regular occurrence? Over a three year term this kind of hospitality could easily be worth over ten thousand dollars – but each incident was only a low value, undeclarable gift. I’ve heard some MPs mention that their office fridge is always full of alcohol gifted by lobbyists for the hospitality industry. Crate of beer and a box of wine? Low value: non-declared, but worth thousands of dollars/MP over the course of a three year term.
I think the best way to phrase the question around this issue is: would we be comfortable if these were cash sums, ie. would we be happy if companies that had business arrangements with the government were able to pay MPs moderately small amounts of money on a weekly basis without any disclosure?
Excellent points. And finally I/S, as usual, doesn’t pull any punches:
Key supports corruption
So, John Key thinks there’s “nothing wrong” with accepting bribes from Westpac and other corporates. Of course he does. He is from the corporate world, where this sort of corruption is par for the course. But what he doesn’t understand is that we expect better from our elected officials.
As for the argument advanced by their recipients that these bribes are meaningless, and do not result in improper influence, then why do the corporates offer them? They think they’re getting something out of it – legally speaking, they’re not allowed to offer it if they’re not. And so should we. …
The party that spent weeks hounding an MP over a single free meal has a lot of questions to answer…