Monday, February 12, 2024

Brownlee enables corruption

One of the few positive things Chris Hipkins did as Prime Minister was to throw the lobbyists out of Parliament, cutting off their free access and requiring them to make an appointment like everybody else. But now, under National, they're back - and with extra secrecy:

The identities of people allowed to freely come and go from Parliament have been made secret by the new Speaker.

Gerry Brownlee told RNZ he did not agree with the blanket ban on lobbyists having swipe card access and some discretion was needed.

He had approved swipe card access for about four new people, who he said could be described as having lobbying roles. But they were not employed by professional lobbying firms and largely had jobs assisting parties in Parliament.

He would not be "facilitating commercial activities" for lobbying firms. But in a departure from previous Speakers, Brownlee said he wouldn't publish the 'approved visitor list' of people with swipe card access to Parliament, in order to protect their privacy.

So, instead of trying to clean up our political system, we have a Speaker who is actively trying to re-introduce and protect corruption. Because that's what the unequal and undemocratic influence of lobbyists on our political system is: corruption. It means that policy is determined by who spends the most money (and possibly, makes the biggest donations), rather than who wins the most votes. As for “privacy”, these people are trying to influence public business. If you or I do that, by writing to Ministers, submitting on proposed legislation, or even meeting with a Minister, our names and the content of our submissions get published. And rightly so – there’s no privacy interest at all when people are trying to influence policy. Brownlee’s special protection for these racketeers is simply saying that the rich and their tools should be allowed to exert such influence in secret. And who does that benefit?

But the mere fact that Brownlee has declared these people's identities secret should give the press gallery a powerful incentive to unmask and expose them. News, after all, is something someone doesn't want you to print. Everything else is just public relations.