More condemnation of Cabinet to lobbyist move

Henry Cooke writes in The Guardian:

Stories are trotted out about New Zealand being “the least corrupt country in the world”. But that isn’t what the index actually measures. It uses a survey of academics and business types to measure perceptions of corruption – which is a reasonable indicator of corruption, but not an actual direct measure, and one open to accusations of bias towards rich countries.

At the start of this year, New Zealand’s then justice minister Kris Faafoi was one of those quoting the nation’s high standings in the index, issuing a press release that again confused a corruption perception index with an actual corruption index. Now just 10 months later – and only three months since leaving the cabinet table – Faafoi has left parliament and started his own lobbying firm.

This is an appalling situation. A politician who was intimately involved in the conversations that shape our country now has a job trying to influence the way those conversations go, and is armed with the knowledge that only someone involved in those conversations would have – from the individual positions of other ministers to highly sensitive information from public servants.

It is unprecedented and appalling.

The rules should not allow him to be reading cabinet papers in June and then lobbying his former colleagues on the same matters in October. Other countries – ones that aren’t naive as us – have so-called “revolving door” policies to stop this very thing, forcing elected officials to cool down for some period of months or years before engaging in lobbying.

One simple way to implement this would be for the PM to issue a Cabinet Office directive that no Minister or official will meet with a lobbyist who has been a Minister within the last three years. It doesn’t need a law change, just a simple decision.

Those who leave politics do have a right to build a new career, and use the skills politics gave them in that new vocation. But the public has every right to be appalled when the turnaround is this quick, and the service on offer is not just the skills and knowledge of a seasoned political operative, but also the connections retained from someone’s time acting as a servant of the public.

It is all about timing. Clayton Cosgrove only became a lobbyist nine years after he was a Cabinet Minister. Roger Sowry also didn’t become a lobbyist until nine years after he was a Cabinet Minister. Nine years is okay. Nine weeks is not.

Bryce Edwards writes:

Faafoi’s two-way trip through the revolving door is utterly brazen. There are no other examples in recent New Zealand political history – and probably no other examples in the OECD countries – of such a short period of time between running government policy to then trying to influence them on behalf of private business.

Even Donald Trump placed a five year ban on members of his Cabinet from becoming lobbyists afterwards.

The media need to ask the Prime Minister how comfortable she is with a cabinet minister quitting his job to immediately become a lobbyist who will be trying to persuade his former colleagues on behalf of vested interests.

Maybe even at her press conference today.

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