From Cabinet straight to lobbying

It was announced in June that then Justice would not see out the term of Parliament he was elected for, but would retire early so he could “spend more time with his family“.

This week we learnt:

Fresh from the Cabinet table, former justice minister Kris Faafoi​ has started a public relations and lobbying firm with a powerful media industry investor. …

On a new website for his soon-to-launch lobbying firm, Dialogue 22, Faafoi has listed his experiences in Parliament as proof of his deep connections in the halls of power.

Its tag line reads: “Results through relationships.” …

Faafoi is listed as chief executive officer of Dialogue 22, which, according to the Companies Register, is wholly owned by the Waitapu Group.

The company offers crisis management, lobbying and media relations services. It promises the ability to get clients “in front of decision-makers, the public and the media”.

Of Government, it promised unique insights from “the highest level”.

This sits uncomfortably with me – having a Minister resign part-way through a parliamentary term and barely a few weeks later setting up a lobbying company that boasts of his relationships and ability to get clients in front of his former colleagues.

In no way do I think former MPs should be banned from becoming lobbyists. But there should be a longer gap than a few weeks (Roger Sowry became one but it was three three years after he left, not three months, and he was CE of a major charity before that) and I can't ever ever recall an MP becoming a lobbyist after resigning midway through a term.

The media at the time of the resignation was all about how Faafoi wanted more time with his family, and that he was over politics. So it seems incongruent that he moves almost immediately into a role critically involved in politics.

Many countries have a cooling off period to prevent what has just happened here. The period is often 12 – 18 months or longer and prevents former from immediately becoming lobbyists. This is the case in Australia (18 months), Canada (five years), the EU (18 months), UK (two years) and the US (two years).

So what Faafoi has done would be prohibited in almost every other developed country. A three months gap is simply not long enough.

Perhaps a journalists should ask the PM if she is comfortable with having one of her former Ministers lobbying his colleagues so soon after he sat around the Cabinet table with them?

I like Kris. He is a good guy, and maybe the opportunity just came up unexpectedly. But to be honest it is a terrible look to resign from Parliament midway through a term and then a few weeks later turning yourself into a lobbyist.

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