The Government Administration Committee has reported back the Lobbying Disclosure Bill written by former Green MP Sue Kedgley and introduced by Holly Walker.
It is no surprise that the Committee unanimously recommended the Bill not proceed. The bill was well-intentioned but to be blunt it was drafted so atrociously that it was beyond unworkable. A more sensible bill would have had a reasonable chance of progressing.
This Bill significantly limits core democratic expression. In going well beyond what would be required to regulate the activities of lobbyists, it risks creating a chilling effect for average New Zealanders who may fear criminal sanctions for merely communicating with a Member of Parliament on behalf of their business in relation to government policy. This would be an unacceptable limit on a core element of freedom of expression.
It’s a good lesson that you can harm your own cause by putting up such a badly drafted bill. It’s effectively killed off any possibility of there being any legislative reform around lobbying (not that I was convinced one needed legislation).
The Government Administration Committee has made three non-legislative recommendations which seem worthwhile:
- That the House develop guidelines for members of Parliament about handling communications relating to
parliamentary business, and review the relevant Standing Orders to ensure consistency
- That the Government require the regulatory impact statements and explanatory notes of parliamentary bills to include details of the non-departmental organisations consulted during the development of related policy and legislation
- That the Government encourage the proactive release of policy papers to make the policy-making process more transparent
At least I won’t now have to worry about ending up in court because I engaged with an MP on Twitter and forgot to tell the Auditor-General about it!Tags: lobbying