Can we do this in NZ please

September 11th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Brisbane Times reports:

 A national public health body has slammed the Newman government’s “gag order” on community organisations, saying it will strip service providers of one of their vital roles.

Queensland Health grant contracts now included clauses preventing non-government organisations advocating for state and federal legislative change, a spokesman for Minister Lawrence Springborg confirmed last night.

“We’re making it clear that we want to fund outcomes but not advocacy,” the spokesman said.

We badly need this in NZ. I’m all for funding of public health groups that provide actual public health services. But we spend tens of millions of dollars on groups that take the money and use it to lobby MPs on what the law should be. It is quite wrong that bureaucrats hand out money to lobby groups, to try and dictate policy to MPs.

There is nothing wrong with a taxpayer funded health group doing select committee submissions and the like. But some health groups are 95% taxpayer funded and as far as I can tell spend 95% of their resources on lobbying activities.

The Newman government raised concerns about advocacy when it announced in May that it was stripping about $2.5 million from the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities, which Queensland Health had previously funded to target HIV/AIDS prevention among gay men.

The group, which has a focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health, spoke up in favour of the former Bligh government’s civil union legislation and has recently criticised the Newman government’s plans to ban same-sex couples from having a child through surrogacy.

In an interview to mark his 100th day in office in July, Mr Newman argued the organisation had not improved HIV rates “and they had become an advocacy group [and] we’re not going to fund advocacy groups”.

That’s a good example. I personally favour same sex marriage and adoption. But I don’t think taxpayer funded should be campaigning for them. I’m not saying that has happened in NZ, just using the Queensland example.

A bill banning funding of NGOs that are greater than say 25% lobbying activity would be an excellent bill for a backbench National MP.

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15 Responses to “Can we do this in NZ please”

  1. labrator (1,850 comments) says:

    Does National even bother putting bills in the ballot anymore?

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  2. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    Unless you put equal restrictions on business lobbying then it’s all going to get very one-sided. As it is the business lobbiests get preferential access.

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  3. Martin Gibson (246 comments) says:

    DPF: “A bill banning funding of NGOs that are greater than say 25% lobbying activity would be an excellent bill for a backbench National MP.”

    A bill advocating for the banning of funding to cultural engineering jammed rudder feminist Ministry of
    Women’s Affairs would be even more welcome, but no-one seems to think that particular $7million is wasted money, despite women going into tertiary training at a 50% higher rate than men, as well as living longer, committing suicide less and having more contact with their kids.

    Want to know why men earn more than women? Survey a group of women about whether they would like their male partner to earn a) 30% less b) the same or c) 30% more than them.

    It would be a welcome bit of differentiation between National and Labour, but I’m not holding my breath.

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  4. Redbaiter (8,929 comments) says:

    John Key should take a good look at what Newman is doing.

    He might learn something about leadership as opposed to clinging to risk averse policies designed around his own (Key’s) obsession with popularity.

    Its called doing what has to be done. Some may even say its putting the country first. Whatever, it takes courage, whcih is probably why Key can’t do it.

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  5. kowtow (8,487 comments) says:

    Yes can we have a bit more of Campbell Newman here.

    http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/newman-and-nicholls-ready-for-first-budget-20120911-25ovb.html

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  6. speters (108 comments) says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taxpayer-funded health groups lobbying on health areas, particularly in their area of expertise. For example, I would have no problem with Plunket or a similar organisation lobbying for compulsory folic acid in bread as that may be the best way they can fulfil their purpose of supporting the health and wellbeing of children under 5.

    I do have an issue with the Australian example above. A ban on same-sex couples from having a child through surrogacy is unlikely to increase the prevalence of AIDS/HIV in the gay community.

    In short, I don’t have a problem with NGOs spending taxpayer money to lobby in genuine pursuit of the goals for which they were funded.

    [DPF: I have no problem with Plunket advocating on that issue. Plunket provide many valuable services. I am talking about the NGOs that do almost nothing but lobbying and advocacy]

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  7. insider (1,028 comments) says:

    A number of groups are actually funded specifically to advocate – in the breastfeeding, smoking and other areas.

    It would be unfair if something like Plunket or Banardos which have multiple funding sources and operations areas are ‘banned’ from engaging in public debate. We do live in a democracy after all.

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  8. KH (695 comments) says:

    I don’t think NGOs should be funded to lobby MP’s.
    If you have a political view, don’t expect taxpayers to fund your activities.
    Self funded and volunteer work are the way to go on that one.
    Apart from the taxpayer money issue. Volunteer approaches are more likely to produce views consistent with the populations view. If you can’t get the volunteers, then you have no case.
    Accordingly we should not be funding political parties either.

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  9. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    I think the ban should be on groups that are more than 25% govt funded spending more than 25% of their overall funds on lobbying.

    I don’t think there’s a problem with some level of lobbying, but it shouldn’t be the primary purpose, and substantial govt funding shouldn’t be diverted into it.

    @insider: I don’t see why the govt would be funding an NGO whose primary activity is lobbying. They should only be funding NGOs to do service delivery, and lobbying is not a service that govt should fund.

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  10. KiwiGreg (3,255 comments) says:

    If the government thinks something is a good idea go and do it.

    Spending taxpayers’ money on some lobby group to lobby you to do something is just dumb.

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  11. Viking2 (11,471 comments) says:

    Well that would stuff the Greens then because they get funded for advocasy, after all they are not a credible political party but a party that uses propaganda et al to force others to change.
    That’s also true of the Maori, Mana, and Labour. No policies founded on sound research just emotive arguments to achieve their own desires.

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  12. insider (1,028 comments) says:

    @ PaulL

    I don’t necessarily disagree but it’s what happens.

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  13. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    @insider: that’s not a reason for it to be OK. There is greyness where an NGO has both advocacy and delivery, I can understand that. But if they are mostly doing advocacy, then makes little sense for the govt to be funding them, that we can all agree and could take action on.

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  14. speters (108 comments) says:

    Can anyone provide some examples of government funded NGOs in New Zealand whose primary activity is lobbying? I’m not saying they don’t exist, I’m just curious to know who they are.

    I would expect government funding to be very specific in terms of the activity it is to be directed towards.

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  15. the deity formerly known as nigel6888 (852 comments) says:

    oh, well there’s ASH, the Prostitutes Collective (funded by health to lobby for prostitution law reform), the Jubilee Foundation (funded by MFAT to lobby for more aid), the Maori Smoking lobby group (that Cam sprung a year or so ago). In fact pretty much all of the NGOs clustered around the health portfolio are being covertly funded to lobby government on various issues. I wouldnt be surprised to hear that la Leche is government funded to promote child health!

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