The Lobbying Disclosure Bill has been in the media again this week as submissions continued at select committee. One of the recurring questions raised by submitters was why New Zealand needs a disclosure regime, given that we already have a relatively transparent system.
While this may be true in comparison to places like the UK and US who have been caught up in high-profile lobbying scandals, it doesn’t mean that we’re without controversy in New Zealand. It’s also vital that we take the opportunity to create best practice while we can – to proactively protect the honest, open system that we have, while continuing to ensure the accessibility of our MPs.
This week in politics has shown the usefulness of a lobbying disclosure regime in New Zealand. Today’s cartoon in the Dominion Post about the Alcohol Reform Bill is a good example of the questions that are raised because of lack of transparency. This bill is currently being debated in the House and there have been strong suggestions that the Government has been unduly about the influenced by the alcohol industry, by putting their concerns ahead of the wellbeing of New Zealanders.
There was also an exchange in the House yesterday between the Government and the Labour Party about the paid parental leave bill, questioning the political influence of National on Business NZ. A lobbying disclosure regime would shed light on this kind of interaction and reduce the political point scoring that inevitably happens when there are questions left unanswered about who is influencing who.