The intent of Green MP Holly Walker’s Lobbying Disclosure Bill is good but it goes far too far.
Jordan Williams argues it will do the opposite of what is intended, distancing people from MPs and creating a lobbying industry:
The bill makes lobbying activity a criminal offence for all but those preregistered with the auditor-general. It requires all communications, even informal conversations, to be publicly disclosed with the client’s identity and interests detailed.
The bill is badly drafted. For example it defines “lobbying activity” so widely that it covers any business writing to an MP.
Further, it covers even the most modest or ancillary advocacy. An accountant emailing an MP about a tax policy on behalf of a client will be committing a criminal offence unless the accountant is a registered lobbyist. A fine of up to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for companies can be imposed. Even a local farm manager complaining to the local MP at the supermarket about emissions policy would be covered.
The bill doesn’t just cover businesses. The inclusion of voluntary organisations mean a single email sent by a manager on behalf of a local RSA is illegal unless the manager is also registered as a “lobbyist”. The problem the bill tries to resolve doesn’t exist. . .
Instead of improving transparency this Bill will put barriers in the way of ordinary people who wish to communicate with MPs.
Our MPs are accessible in a way that those in most other countries aren’t.
The few who like to keep a distance from the public might like the protection this Bill will give them but most will regard it as an impediment to open and frank communication.
It is being driven by the Green Party paranoia about big business and will get in the way of ordinary people and their elected representatives.
Kiwiblog would like the Bill to be amended but doubts if it is possible to do so without the unintended consequences.
Holly responded to Jordan’s post here.
He offered to help improve the Bill but writes on Facebook:
The Green Party appear to have deleted my comment on their blog site, responding to Holly Walker‘s post regarding my opinion piece in today’s DomPost (posted earlier). Specifically she implies that unlike others I have not offered suggestions to improve to Bill. That is not true. I will post the response here:
“Hi Holly, yes the Bill does have a good intention, I don’t deny that, but its effects will damage our culture of easily accessible MPs. Laws need to be assessed by what they say and what they do, not what they are intended to do.
I take issue with your remark that I have not offered to improve the Bill, indeed I personally emailed you on 17 April offering my firm’s time (free of charge) to suggest improvements to the Bill that would avoid the very criticisms I make of it.
He then gave an update saying his comment was up but she had “removed the offending sentence.”