Walker steps down

July 1st, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

First-term Green MP Holly Walker has decided to withdraw from the party’s list, effectively stepping down as a MP at the September election.

“Unfortunately, a recent unexpected change in my family life has made it very difficult for me to continue as a Green MP”, Ms Walker said.

“Under these circumstances, I have chosen to put my family first and withdraw myself from the Green Party list.”

That is a real surprise, but family does come first, and Holly has my best wishes in looking after her family.

I always found Holly someone very willing to engage respectfully, and a very pleasant person to deal with.

Holly was No 12 on the Green Party list. Everyone below her moves up one. This increases the chance of James Shaw becoming an MP. It also increased the chance of Steffan Browning holding on.

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Law Society slaughters Lobbying Bill and Chauvel SOP

October 12th, 2012 at 1:25 pm by David Farrar

The Law Society has published its submission on Holly Walker’s Lobbying Disclosure Bill and the SOP by Charles Chauvel. 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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Bill of Rights report on the Lobbying Disclosure Bill

June 12th, 2012 at 3:01 pm by David Farrar

The Attorney-General has delivered the required report on how the Lobby Disclosure Bill by Holly Walker complies with Bill of Rights Act. The conclusion is that it would be an unjustified limitation of the right to freedom of expression. Some extracts:

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. George Washington remarked “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” …

The AG also quotes former Green MP Keith Locke:

“… All should be given the right to express a view no matter how disconcerting it should be, on even the most difficult or abhorrent of issues… Implicit in free speech is the idea that the community benefits from an untrammelled exchange of views and that every participant might have something to add to our enlightenment.”

Quoting the wisdom of Keith Locke on a bill by a Green MP, means that presumably the Greens won’t attack the opinion as one they disagree with.

The conclusion is:

Whilst a requirement to register as a lobbyist and the imposition of various obligations to disclose publicly information about lobbying activities undertaken do not prevent expression, they do limit the ability to express information freely.  Some people may be dissuaded from expressing themselves because of the implications of the Bill. 

I therefore consider that the Bill is prima facie inconsistent with s 14 of the Bill of Rights Act.

Then the question is, can the limitation be justified. The AG says that some regulation can be justified, to increase transparency but:

The limits on freedom of expression sought to be imposed by the Bill are greater than reasonably necessary to meet the objective.  This is because, primarily due to poor drafting, the Bill goes well beyond the activities of professional lobbyists to include a wide range of other activities.

An example:

The Bill will also capture people who send a one-off email to their Member of Parliament on behalf of their incorporated farm or small business regarding any government policy.  This is because the Bill does not exclude from its scope organisations who are not professional lobbyists and do not have significant involvement in lobbying.  The Bill may also capture a person from a media outlet who arranges a face-to-face interview between a journalist and a Minister.

This means:

 Individuals in the examples above may restrain themselves from making communications if they did not want to be considered a lobbyist and incur potential criminal sanctions for communicating with Ministers or Members of Parliament.  This is an unacceptable and dangerous limit on freedom of expression.

And finally:

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.

I favour the bill going to select committee, but it is clear that it will need to be significantly amended to proceed beyond select committee.

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The Lobbying Disclosure Bill

April 11th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

One of the bills drawn out of the ballot last week was the Lobbying Disclosure Bill in the name of Holly Walker, bur originally drafted by Sue Kedgley.

The Herald had a headline “Long time lobbyist lobbies against lobby law”, but in fact the substance of the story was quite different:

One of the country’s longest standing lobbyists says a bill which would force lobbyists to register and disclose their clients and meetings with Government ministers is not necessary in New Zealand.

Mark Unsworth, a partner of government relations firm Saunders Unsworth, said he was not against the proposals in a Green Party bill which will soon go before Parliament but did not believe it was necessary.

I would suggest that this bill is a solution looking for a problem. But as no one wants to be seen as against transparency, it will probably proceed. Like Mark Unsworth, I have no problem in principle with the intent, but people should be aware of how far reaching the bill may be.

The Dom Post editorial is in favour of the bill, as is the Herald.

The proposed bill makes it an offence for any person to engage in lobbying activity, unless they are registered with the Auditor-General. The definition in the bill of lobbying is very wide. I blogged last year:

Arguably I could be regarded as a lobbyist for InternetNZ. For many years I chaired their Public Policy Committee as Vice-President of InternetNZ. As VP I had a small honorarium of $12,000 a year. I’ve retired as VP, but still chair the now titled Policy Advisory Group. This involves literally chairing the monthly meetings, but also meeting with policy staff regularly to help develop submissions, pro-actively identifying policy issues etc. I am now technically a contractor, as I am no longer an officer, and still get $12,000 a year for it.

Now for the last seven years or so, I’ve been one of the InternetNZ people who speaks to our submissions at select committees, and meets with MPs to advocate for what we regard as good for the Internet.

One could argue I am a paid lobbyist for InternetNZ in my current role. I don’t quite see it like that because my advocacy is based on my beliefs of what is good for the Internet, which coincide with InternetNZ. But under the proposed law, I might be classified as a lobbyist. Now that doesn’t worry me at all, but it seems strange to me as I’m not like a lawyer or lobbyist who will argue for a client regardless of their own beliefs. If ever INZ adopted a policy position I disagreed with, I would not take part in the advocacy around it.

Now depending on how you define a lobbyist, my advocacy on behalf of InternetNZ might be deemed lobbying in my role as a contractor to them, but how about when I was their Vice-President? I was doing much the same then, as I was today. I would argue you should say that if I am deemed a lobbyist as a contractor, I am also a lobbyist as an office holder.

Now if you do take that definition, then just be aware that an awfully large number of people will now be classified as lobbyists. I’d suspect 1,000+ people would fall into that definition.

Now if I am classified as a lobbyist for InternetNZ, then under this bill I’d say I’d have to report any tweets I direct towards MPs on Internet related issues.

At Kiwi Foo Camp there was a roundtable discussion with David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Clare Curran on innovation. I’m pretty sure we discussed some Internet issues there, so does that have to be disclosed even though there were 40 people in the room?

What if I go to a Meet the Candidates meeting and ask MPs a question on copyright issues, mentioning my own views on them? Do I face a $10,000 fine for not including that?

How about my blog posts? I know many MPs read this blog. Does that count as a communication towards them, that must be disclosed?

The bill should be supported at first reading. Its intent is worthy. However I think a select committee will have to very carefully consider it to ensure it doesn’t become a bureaucratic monster where (for example) every discussion between a Greenpeace activist and a Green MP doesn’t require forms in triplicate.

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Pākehā birds and freedom in death

March 3rd, 2012 at 11:38 am by David Farrar

A friend just reminded me of a section of new Green MP Holly Walker’s maiden speech. I’ve blogged in the past that I think Holly will be a very good MP and advocate for her beliefs. But that doesn’t mean I won’t have fun highlighting when she competes with Cath Delahunty to be the most fervent Ngati Pakeha in Parliament.

In Holly’s speech she said:

Mr Speaker, at this point it is appropriate to acknowledge the amazing kākahu that rests on my shoulders tonight. It was woven by long-standing Green Party member and leader Danna Glendinning over 22 months, under the guidance of kuia at Te Rau Awaawa in Hamilton, and gifted to the party at a powhiri in January. This incredible taonga is woven from the feathers of Pākehā birds

How is a bird a Pākehā bird? What makes a bird a Pākehā? What birds are Maori? Are some birds asian?

Does she mean a Pākehā bird is a non-endemic to New Zealand bird? Or does she mean a Pākehā bird is a non-native bird?

I’ve never heard a bird referred to as a Pākehā before. It is somewhat ironic as some say that the term is derived from “Pa-Kea”, a long nosed bird that was often found in the pa.

 including caged battery hens, who have found a freedom in death in this kākahu that they never had in life. 

A freedom in death? Remind me never to give Holly an enduring power of attorney over me :-) My idea of freedom doesn’t include being made into a cloak!

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Child abuse questions

January 26th, 2012 at 2:37 pm by David Farrar

Holly Walker blogs at Frog Blog:

The release of these studies comes while Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is in the middle of an intensive road trip consulting on her Green Paper for Vulnerable Children. She was in my town, Lower Hutt, last night, and in Whangarei earlier this week while I was there. From local reports, it sounds like the consultation process has been somewhat fraught, with locals in Whangarei frustrated that the Minister wasn’t open to hearing from people directly, insisting instead that they “put it in a submission“. Nevertheless I applaud the proactive way that the Government has approached the task of consulting on the Green Paper – they’ve really gone all out with meetings, websites, social media, and NGO engagement. Submissions close on 28 February and I do encourage you to make one.

It’s good that Holly is encouraging submissions, and encouraging participation in the process.

I’ve heard from those who were at the Lower Hutt meeting last night that the cost of living and inequality were are major theme of responses from the audience, but that the Minister’s focus was very much on reporting and information-sharing. …

Until we address child poverty and inequality, we can’t hope to make serious inroads on the child abuse issue.

I don’t accept that child abuse is just about child poverty and inequality. There are Asian countries with much greater poverty and inequality that have almost no child abuse.

While I commend Holly for her post, and promoting the green paper consultation, could I suggest MPs “eat their own dogfood” so to speak. Rather than rely on third hand reports of what was said at a local meeting, I would hope local MPs would go along and attend.

I understand there were 150 people at the meeting in Lower Hutt, including six National MPs. Labour and other parties have been calling for a bi-partisan approach to child abuse. So I would have though local MPs would go along to hear what their communities are saying. But none on non-National MP attended – despite all being invited.

I think it would be of more importance than a Frocks on Bike bike maintenance workshop. Frocks on Bikes is a commendable initiative, but I do think it is a pity none of the local MPs actually attended the meeting, and heard first hand what people were saying. I recall Metiria Turei attending the launch of the green paper, which was commendable.

I don’t think you can declare an issue will be bi-partisan or non-partisan as different parties have genuinely different beliefs on how to reduce child abuse. National will believe their welfare reforms will help reduce child abuse, while the Greens will disagree (for example). But despite those differences in beliefs, there is no reasons people can’t take part in the process, and have their views heard. I do not believe the Government in any way has pre-determined outcomes on this review. There are no easy solutions, so whatever decisions do eventually get made will inevitably upset some segments of the community.

UPDATE: Holly has commented below, explaining she was running the session she attended and had agreed to do so back in November. But she did send her EA to take notes.

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Green Party list

April 9th, 2011 at 8:28 am by David Farrar

The Greens released (after I had it leaked to me three years ago) this week their draft party list for the 2011 election. It is highly persuasive with the party membership, but normally there are some minor changes. At this stage the list is:

  1. Metiria Turei
  2. Russel Norman
  3. Kevin Hague
  4. Catherine Delahunty
  5. Kennedy Graham
  6. Gareth Hughes
  7. Eugenie Sage
  8. Jan Logie
  9. David Clendon
  10. Holly Walker
  11. Denise Roche
  12. Julie Anne Genter
  13. Mojo Mathers
  14. James Shaw
  15. Richard Leckinger

The Greens could well get 10 MPs. Eugenie Sage is a green green – a long time Forest & Bird and one of the sacked ECan Councillors. Jan Logie stood for the Greens in the Mana by-election. She is the development manager at the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities.

Holly Walker is a current Green Press Secretary, and former Critic editor. I rate her as a significant political talent, and if she gets in, will be one of their more effective MPs.

Denise Roche at 11 is from Waiheke Island, and a former Auckland City Councillor. She is well known in Auckland Central, where Greens do very well.

Julie-Anne Genter is a young transport planner. She has a stellar acadamic record, and from I can tell would be a significant asset to the Greens caucus.

Mojo Mathers is a parliamentary party staffer also, and No 15 Rick Leckinger is a former parliamentary staffer.  That’s three current or former staffers in the top 15. I don’t know Mojo, but regard Rick as a good guy who has a very good understand of Internet issues. He suffers from a minor disability of being born in Georgia, USA :-)

Overall looks to be one of their strongest and most youthful line ups. Of course I think their policies are generally whacked.

For them to get into Parliament Holly, Denise and Julie-Anne etc, they need to lift their vote share from 2008. If I was a centre left voter, I’d be looking closely at whom Labour has on their list around the threshold of “might make it”, and think about which candidates you would rather have in Parliament.

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