Friday, October 05, 2012


Below is my draft submission on the Lobbying Disclosure Bill. Submissions are due today, so if you have a view on the bill, you need to get in quick:

  • I support the Lobbying Disclosure Bill and ask that it be passed with amendments to make it consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights act 1990.

  • The purpose of lobbying is to affect policy. It can lead to poor government decision-making, favours for friends, and laws stacked in favour of deep-pocketed special interests. Transparency will allow us to hold Ministers to account for listening to lobbyists and granting them special influence. It will allow the public to decide, through the electoral system, what lobbying is acceptable and what is not.

  • The bill does suffer from some deficiencies. As the Attorney-General's section 7 report makes clear, it is poorly drafted, and as a result infringes excessively on the right to freedom of expression affirmed in the Bill of Rights Act. The problem here is not that the purpose of the bill is fundamentally inconsistent with freedom of expression, but that it is overbroad in its scope by e.g. applying to public servants communicating with Ministers, or media interviewing MPs. I support amendments to fix those problems.

  • The problem of capturing direct lobbying by small business is more problematic. The Attorney-General implicitly supports using the Canadian formulation requiring lobbying be a "significant part of duties" before registration is required. But this formulation has been found to be difficult to apply in practice, and Canada's federal Lobbying Commissioner wants it removed. In this case, it needs to be recognised that small businesses have no greater right to lobby than larger ones, and should not be exempted.

  • I do not support the amendment proposed by the Labour Party to exempt unions and NGOs from the coverage of the bill. Lobbying is lobbying, and it is for the public to judge whether it is acceptable.

  • I do not wish to make an oral submission to the Select Committee.