Monday, June 17, 2013

The revolving door

The Herald reports on new Speaker David Carter's generosity in approving Parliamentary access passes to lobbyists. But in the process, they miss the real story: the revolving door between government and lobbying:

Three former ministerial advisers are among those give easy-access cards in the past year: Air New Zealand's Phil de Joux, who used to be John Key's deputy chief of staff; Anadarko's Anita Ferguson, who was Steven Joyce's press secretary, and Fonterra's Nicola Willis, who was an adviser and speech-writer for Mr Key.

All three of these people are leveraging relationships built in government service for private gain. That is not only ethically dubious; it degrades the reputation of Parliament, and raises the question of whether the advice they gave in their previous position was affected by their desire to gain outside employment (a question which also arises about members of the Parliamentary press gallery when they move to better-paid positions as political spindoctors). Granting them the special favour of free access to Parliament degrades it even further, and raises questions about what other favours they are getting from Ministers.

Some countries prohibit former public servants from leveraging their relationships in this way, by barring them from employment as lobbyists for a period. That would be a big step, but I think the least we can do to clean up our politics is to not enable such individuals. And the first way of doing that is to stop showing them special favour. If they want to talk to Ministers, let them wait in the queue with everybody else.