Monday, June 13, 2011

Policy for sale

Yesterday John Key announced that the government was supporting the development of an international convention centre in Auckland. The centre would bring jobs and money to Auckland, which is a good thing. But there's a price: SkyCity wanted gambling laws relaxed to protect its investment, and Key (a former professional gambler, though in a different sort of casino) has decided to give it to them.

As with the Hobbit, this is a blatant case of policy for sale. Apparently all you have to do to change the law in this country is dangle (or threaten) a large enough amount of money in front of John Key. Which is great for large, exploitative multinational corporations - but not so great for ordinary kiwis, who are effectively financially locked out of our own government.

But there's a dirtier aspect to this as well, namely the possibility of undue influence exerted through political donations. Auckland Mayor Len Brown is right behind the project - possibly because SkyCity gave him $15,000 for his election campaign last year. As for National, SkyCity used to be a regular donor, giving them $60,000 in 2005. They haven't made more recent large donations, and thanks to National's "reform" which raised the disclosure threshold to $30,000, we'll never know if there's a payback for Key's support.

This illustrates perfectly why we need proper electoral disclosure laws in our country: so we can see who is bribing our politicians. With controversial decisions like this, we need to know. Sadly, both our major parties have a strong interest in ensuring that we can't.