by Holly Walker
This week we’ve had another reminder of the importance of transparency about lobbying activity.
On Wednesday in the House, Winston Peters forced Immigration Minister Nathan Guy to come clean about an agreement between the Government and a Chinese airline to allow frequent flyers to skip normal border checks when coming into NZ. It’s since come to light that SkyCity has been working with this same airline to bring VIP gamblers into Auckland “seamlessly”.
Peters was only able to do this because he had obtained leaked documents detailing the agreement.
The public have the right to know the extent of the Government’s relationship with SkyCity, which keeps coming up again and again. The Auditor General is currently investigating the Government’s ‘pokies for a Convention Centre’ deal with SkyCity and this latest revelation again raises serious questions about Ministerial influence and fairness.
Instead of stories like this emerging through a flurry of accusations, speculation and dramatic exchanges at Question Time, there needs to be transparency through a proactive lobbying disclosure regime, to make public who is meeting with our decision-makers about what issues.
The problem is, as I raised in relation to the Snapper example last week, these instances only become public because people know how to ask the right questions or are able to get hold of private documents.
And while this has provided us with yet another example of lobbying activity, it’s also important to remember that this sort of activity is going on all of the time. While some instances, like this, bubble up to the surface and become public knowledge, many others never come to light.