There was interesting coverage on my lobbying bill in the NZ Herald today. At the first reading of the Lobbying Disclosure Bill last week, Labour tabled an amendment that, amongst other things, calls for trade unions and not-for-profit groups to be exempted from any lobbying disclosure regime.
There are two reasons why I haven’t come out in support of this amendment, both of which I made clear in my speeches at the first reading of the bill.
Firstly, I think it’s too soon to think about specific amendments to the bill. It is clear that there are certain areas that may require amendment, including some of the concerns raised by NGOs and smaller organisations. However, I don’t want to prejudice the outcome of the discussions at select committee and for that reason I don’t believe it’s helpful to propose such specific amendments at this early stage.
Secondly, there are some aspects of the bill that I believe must remain intact. It’s important that the bill is fair and it must continue to apply across the board. It is central to the purpose of the bill that we get true transparency, which means we need to be able to see the range of organisations that have been communicating with MPs and Ministers in an attempt to influence public policy. Anything less would not give a clear picture of influence.
I’m confident that many of the concerns of the not-for-profit and NGO sectors can be addressed at the select committee. I’m aware that they have specific concerns about the bill and I am going into the select committee with an open mind about how we can address these. I tend to think that if we can nail the definitions of what is lobbying and who is a lobbyist we will be a long way towards doing this.
I’m really looking forward to the select committee process and working to secure the best possible legislation for an open, transparent, practical and fair lobbying regime.