Lobbyist access cards

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reported:

Speaker Lockwood Smith has buckled to pressure and named the and other frequent visitors at Parliament who have security access cards.

The list of 15 “approved visitors” includes from Saunders Unsworth, the Council of Unions, Sky TV, Business NZ and Vector. There are also lawyers, two spouses of former MPs and a pastor who leads a prayer group at Parliament.

The Speaker has also set a new condition that those who get the cards must agree to have their names made public.

The Green Party had strongly objected to having access cards and called for the list to be made public, saying it gave some lobbyists privileges to visit MPs under the cloak of secrecy.

There should be more people with access cards, not less. The last thing we want is Parliament less accessible. Three important points people should know.

  1. There are not just 15 “outside” people with parliamentary access cards. There are literally hundreds and hundreds. Half the youth wings of each political party have them, I’ve had one since I left in 2004. Any MP or parliamentary party can arrange an access card for any person. Anyone who is even a semi-regular visitor tends to have one.
  2. Access cards are not about “Who is allowed to see an MP”. That’s what staff are for. An access card does not mean you can bypass MPs secretaries (you could try, but only if you like a short life). All they mean is you can don’t need to go through the metal detector (as you are a known person) and don’t have to wait at the main reception for someone to let you up, but can go through to the MPs specific reception.
  3. We actually (post 9/11) have stricter security access to our MPs than in Wahsington DC. A few years ago I was in DC, and ran into a friend whose father was a Congressman (Jim Sessenbrenner) and he suggested we see his father’s office. While one did have to go through a metal detector, that was it in terms of security. No calling to to see if you had an appointment and were expected, you could just walk through the corridors unimpeded. No swipe cards needed.

I firmly believe more people should have swipe cards, not fewer. Any citizen who has a good reasons to visit Parliament on a semi-regular basis should have one, so long as they comply with the rules and do not abuse the privilege. I certainly find it immensely useful, as often when you are there to see an MP (and don’t have your swipe card), the secretary may be out of doing a job for the MP, and you have to wait ages for someone to authorise you in, which actually just wastes both their time and yours.


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