Thursday, October 30, 2014

An unmanaged conflict

Katherine Rich is a member of the government-appointed Health Promotion Agency, responsible for (as it says on its website) "inspiring all New Zealanders to lead healthier lives".

Katherine Rich is also Chief Executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council, a lobby group for the food, sugar, tobacco and alcohol industries. As part of this role, she subcontract lobbyist Carrick Graham to run dirty politics hits on health researchers via Cameron Slater's sewerblog.

Rich's two roles appear to be in direct conflict. But the government says that that conflict is managed appropriately. Bullshit. While it has been declared, as Kevin hague pointed out in Question Time today, Rich has never recused herself from a single discussion or decision of the HPA, despite a clear requirement in the Crown Entities Act that she does so on any matter in which she has an interest.

There are two possibilities here. Firstly, despite its name, function, and the extensive contents of its website, the Health Promotion Agency has never in the time that Rich has been a member dealt with any issue related to sugar, alcohol, tobacco, or any of the other unhealthy products she peddles.

The second is that the chair of the HPA is a muppet and Rich's conflict is effectively unmanaged, contrary to the law.

Which seems more likely?