Tuesday, June 12, 2012


The Attorney-General has issued a section 7 report on the Lobbying Disclosure Bill, on the basis that it is inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression [PDF]. The core problem is poor drafting: the bill currently captures employees of crown entities and non-public-service departments (e.g. the Police and NZDF) communicating with Ministers in the course of their duties, as well as "people who send a one-off email to their Member of Parliament on behalf of their incorporated farm or small business". The former point is obviously a problem, but equally obviously easy to fix. The latter point is more troublesome. The clause is targeted at lobbyists who are partners or directors of a firm rather than mere employees, and it is vital to capture them. But how to do it without going too broad? Finlayson implicitly suggests using the Canadian formulation of requiring lobbying to be a significant part of someone's duties before requiring registration - but the Canadian Lobbying Act has just been reviewed, and its registrar found that requirement was too narrow and allowed lobbyists to evade oversight (she also had problems getting people prosecuted, because the RCMP just didn't care about the law. Kindof like our police and the Electoral Act...)

Hopefully National won't use this as an excuse to vote for secrecy. This is not a problem with the core aim of the bill, but with its details. Those can be fixed, and the place to do it is in select committee.

(Meanwhile, I'm curious: did anyone lobby Finlayson on this? I'd love to know...)