Tuesday, March 21, 2023

This smells

RNZ has continued its look at the role of lobbyists by taking a closer look at the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Andrew Kirton. He used to work for liquor companies, opposing (among other things) a container refund scheme which would have required them to take responsibility for their own waste. Then he went to work for Chris Hipkins, and surprise, surprise, that container-refund scheme was thrown on Chris's policy bonfire.

Which smells a bit stinky. Almost like he mixed up his "previous" role as a lobbyist (he quit literally the day before Hipkins hired him) with his new one as not-quite-a-public-servant. And for those quibbling about the latter, while the PM's chief of staff is not a public service role, its also clearly doing the public's business, and we are entitled to certain expectations of political hygiene there. For Ministers, the rule is that they are "expected to... behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards" [emphasis added]. A public perception that someone had mingled their public and private business in this manner would be intolerable in a Minister. We should not accept it from the PM's chief of staff either.

As the article notes, this is possible because unlike other democracies Aotearoa does not have a "cooling off period" to slow the revolving door between politics and lobbying. Pretty obviously, we need one. And it would be fascinating to know what the PM's chief of staff thinks of that, and what advice (if any) he has given the PM on the issue.