Alcohol lobby again highlights need for greater transparency

I feel like a bit of a stuck record lately – it seems almost every week there is a new example of why we need greater transparency about political lobbying.

This time it’s the influence of the alcohol lobby on the Government’s decision not to tackle RTDs in the Alcohol Reform Bill. This story was highlighted in yesterday’s Sunday Star Times, where details of the number and nature of interactions between Justice Minister Judith Collins and representatives of the RTD industry were revealed.

The power of the alcohol lobby was one of the concerns that prompted my former colleague Sue Kedgley to draft the Lobbying Disclosure Bill in the first place. As well as my predecessor as open government spokesperson, Sue was the Green Party’s health and alcohol spokesperson, and she had witnessed the apparent influence of the industry on government policy first hand for a number of years.

In the Government’s decision not to tackle RTDs, or indeed the important issues of price and marketing in reducing alcohol-related harm, it appears we have another example of that influence.

Once again, it is only because some smart savvy people knew what questions to ask and what information to request that this influence has come to light publicly. If we had more robust rules about lobbying transparency, like those proposed in my Lobbying Disclosure Bill, information like the number of times Ministers met with industry representatives would be proactively disclosed to the public much sooner.

It would also enable us to judge whether Ministers are getting a balanced perspective on key issues – by revealing, for example, how many times the same Ministers met with health campaigners and NGOs. If the lobbyist register showed that Judith Collins met with the New Zealand Drug Foundation as often as she met with the alcohol industry, then perhaps we would have nothing to worry about.

The fact that this seems highly unlikely is part of the reason we need greater transparency about lobbying activity across the board. If Ministers end up seeking a more balanced perspective before making key decisions in the knowledge that who they met with will be a matter of public record within three months, all the better.

3 Comments Posted

  1. Sad but true there will always be dishonest people in power positions in the government. Still we must continue to get the truth out there!


  2. This Govt. seem ‘gungho’ to place bans on all DRUGS & yet the corporate power of ‘Big Alcohol’ & ‘big tobacco’ seem to get the OK..
    Double standard or WHAT ?
    Obviously proving that their GOD is the mighty dollar & rational thinking is totally anathema to them !


  3. Judith Collins is a nasty dishonest piece of work in the typical National party style. When she was police minister she never talked about the single biggest driver of crime and especially violent crime in this country, which is of course Alcohol.

    Now as Justice minister her crowning moment is to capitulate to the Alcohol industry. Given the large amount of money and perks the booze pushers “donate” to the National party and its individual politicians, this may have influenced Collins in her dereliction of duty.
    The National party receives a lot of money from the mining industry, the alcohol makers and pushers and other vested interest groups.

    It would seem that National writes the laws according to who gives them the money >>>>>>>>

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