Thursday, June 12, 2008

The "moral obligation to lie" is back

The other morning, I heard on the radio that the National Party was opposing the government's Real Estate Agents Bill, which would reform the real estate industry by introducing an independent regulator and greater protections for the public, on the grounds that it didn't go far enough. The National Party wanting more "red tape"! That was noteworthy enough that it was almost worth blogging about.

Unfortunately, it seems National may not be being entirely upfront about the reason for their opposition. While claiming to be trying to protect the public, they have in fact made a tawdry deal with the Real Estate Institute (who do not like the idea of greater regulation and consumer protection one bit) to leave us at the mercy of the sharks. At least, that's what REINZ head Murray Cleland is telling his members behind closed doors. There are obvious echoes here of National's 2005 deal with the Insurance Council to priavtise ACC while keeping this policy secret from the public. And with Don Brash's ideology of the "moral obligation to lie".

National needs to come clean on two things: firstly, what is its policy on the real estate industry? Does it approve of consumer protection, or does it plan to gut the bill post-election as Cleland suggests? And secondly, how much has the REINZ or its members donated to the National Party in the past three years? As with the private health industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the gambling industry and the tobacco lobby (all of whom donated heavily to National in 2005 and "coincidentally" received policy concessions), when National announces policy beneficial to the real estate industry, we have every right to know whether that industry has been giving them money. Otherwise, we invite corruption. So, will National come clean? Or will they try and hide behind secrecy - and in doing so, remind us of exactly why we need electoral transparency?