Law Society slaughters Lobbying Bill and Chauvel SOP

The Law Society has published its submission on ’s Disclosure Bill and the SOP by . They almost brutally dissect both of them. Their summary is:

  • There is likely to be a drop in participation in the political process
  • The Supplementary Order Paper (SOP)1 tries to separate “organisations” in a way that is unprincipled and illogical
  • The SOP exemptions for “constituents” do not recognise MMP, and contain other illogicalities
  • There is no demonstrated justification for the erosion of the internationally recognised doctrine of legal privilege
  • International reports and codes indicate this is a highly complex area not amenable to legislation by slogan

Legislation by slogan is a term that may catch on for it.

They give an example of how wide the bill is:

It also has to be recognised that lobbying can be entirely altruistic, for example, fireworks safety or youth suicide advocates. Some may be paid directly to lobby, others may do so as part of wider paid employment, and some may do so without payment. In some cases it may be difficult to tell. Clause 6(2) of the Bill is probably so broad that it would catch a Professor of Mental Health who lobbied on a matter such as the application of funding for youth suicide prevention.

They state:

Unfortunately, the Bill is little more than ‘legislation by slogan’. It is unsupported by any cost-benefit analysis or effective linking of the solution to the alleged problem, and lacks rigour in its drafting. The Supplementary Order Paper that is before the Committee makes the Bill worse on all three counts

And this is the SOP from the Shadow Attorney-General. They specifically say:

The Supplementary Order Paper put forward by Mr Charles Chauvel does not improve the Bill. The SOP proposes three main changes to the Bill. …  Two of the amendments are palpably wrong, and the third may be an improvement but needs analysis and context.

And on the exemption for MPs talking to their constituents:

The term “constituent” is not used in the Electoral Act 1993.

It can be taken to mean something other than “individual”. It may mean “any elector”, but that
could be too broad. It also seems odd to exclude persons who are too young to vote, or those who are otherwise not (yet) qualified (for example, refugees). Presumably “constituent” cannot include firms or organisations, but what about their office holders? 

If it means “elector in relation to the electorate of the Member” then very capricious outcomes are possible. To take Mr Chauvel’s own position, he is a list MP. So, an elector in Ohariu could lobby the Honourable Peter Dunne as the electorate MP but could not lobby Mr Chauvel, even if they would prefer to deal with Mr Chauvel.

Now that is an own goal.

Their recommendation:

The Law Society strongly recommends that the Law Commission be given the opportunity to provide a comprehensive analysis of the appropriateness of lobbying disclosure regulation and the serious issues it poses, before any legislation is progressed in New Zealand.

Their clause by clause analysis is also worth a read:

Clause 6 requires individuals to register before engaging in lobbying activity. This is a strict liability offence (cl 19(2)), so those who lobby without realising that their activity is lobbying will be criminalised.

And the Greens claim to be a party that supports free speech! They were the only party to vote against repealing the odious Electoral Finance Act also.

 

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