lobbyists

Lobbying and Government Relations

The Green Party is doing New Zealand a favour and pointing out how our politicians are getting so far removed from the people that “lobbyists” or “government relations” specialists are needed.

The Greens haven’t highlighted how many MPs profit from their careers by moving seamlessly from being a politician into selling access as a “lobbyist”.

Here’s how it works. You happen to be a senior cabinet minister who’s missus wants you to work less and spend more time at home, and give up politics. You start looking around for work. You might go to a major law firm and say: “I am looking to change careers and I am wondering if someone of my skills would fit your firm?” to a senior partner. The senior partner says “I see your grades at law school were not that good, and you have a stellar career as a third rate provincial conveyancing lawyer. I shall ask the partner in charge of third rate provincial conveyancing if there are any openings in her team.”

So you mention that your name actually is not “Simon”, but “Hon. Power”, and you would thank the senior partner to remember this. Then you exchange a kind of secret handshake, and everyone agrees that your previous career as a third rate provincial conveyancing lawyer may be overlooked as you have also made a modest impact as a minister of the crown and happen to be exceptionally well connected with other ministers of the crown. A less secret form of handshake, and the deal is done. The big law firm gets access for its clients that it can charge at $500 per hour, the former minister can cash in on all those wasted years listening to constituents complain about the price of milk, judging the best heifer or throwing gumboots and everyone is happy.

Except the Greens and the New Zealand voter who has just discovered they are getting one hard in the arse because you now need to pay a big law firm $500 per hour to get the government to listen to you.

So let’s all support the Greens especially if they push for a mandatory three year stand down or in Green terms “gardening leave” before an elected official can become a “lobbyist” or a “government relations” scumbag.

Agreeing with the Greens on Scum Lobbyists

Sue Kedgley is doing New Zealand a favour and outing the scum lobbyists who are getting in the way of democracy. So as much as this blog considers the Greens to be batshit mad, it is supporting this policy and Sue.

Under the Greens’ proposal, lobbyists would have to register with the Auditor General’s office and file quarterly returns detailing which politicians they’d spoken with and on what issues. That information would be publicly accessible.

The Auditor General would also draw up a code of conduct and any breaches would result in suspension or even fines.

“We believe the public has a right to know who is engaged in lobbying activities that seek to influence public policy,” said Ms Kedgely.

“We want to get lobbying out of the shadows and ensure it takes place in as open a way as possible.”

The only problem with this is it doesn’t go far enough. In some states in Australia there is a mandatory stand down period for politicians so they cannot go from being a politician to selling access. Like here, where politicians move to a “government relations” or “communications” firm and then sell access to their old contacts. One former senior National MP boasted about having all but two of cabinet to a party at his firm.

This is an absolute disgrace, as it gives people on the inside the opportunity to gain outcomes that are not available to those on the outside. This is a form of compliance cost or tax that New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses can do without. Sue, beef up your legislation to include a mandatory three year stand down period for all former MPs before they make money from lobbying.

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