Greens: Sending lobbyists a message

James Shaw has announced today (via email) that he is “Sending lobbyists a message” – he could do with sending this message to the Labour Party too.:

Progressive change means living our values. It also means staying true to who we are as a Party.

That’s why I announced today two new measures to ensure transparency and counter the influence of money in politics:

  1. Green Party Ministers will proactively release their ministerial diaries, to show who they’ve met with and why;
  2. Green Ministers, MPs and staff will not accept corporate hospitality, such as free tickets to events unrelated to their work.

Greens have always stood for more transparency around lobbying and access to politicians. Now we’re in government, we’re walking the walk.

Other MPs consider being shouted free rugby tickers or an expensive meal just a perk of the job. But it’s not how we do things.

You all deserve to know who we’re meeting with and why. You all deserve to know we won’t accept gifts as a quid-pro-quo for looking after corporate interests in Parliament.

I’m proud to announce yet another small way that the Green Party is committed to doing government differently and doing government better.

You can read more here OR check out my full speech to the Green Party Policy Conference.


TPPA success and how to lobby

David Farrar has an excellent post at Kiwiblog – The battle for the IP chapter – on how a number of groups lobbied on IP issues on the Trans pacific Partnership, engaging with with MFAT and MBIE negotiators, with lobbyists and negotiators from other countries.

He details a number of proposals on IP that he (and others) opposed and wanted to do what they could to exclude them from the TPP, and it seems with some success.

These provisions would have been truly horrible, if they had been agreed to. The good thing is that with the exception of the extension of the term (which is more a copyright than Internet issue) the US got beaten back on pretty much all of this. I’m not saying the IP chapter is great (there are still a couple of areas of concern which we need to see the detail on) but this truly horrible stuff is not in there – software is not patentable still, parallel importing remains legal, you can circumvent TPMs for legal purposes, ISPs don’t face extra liability, no changes to our three strikes law for filesharing infringing (which rights holders don’t like).

So why did the US not get its way on much in this chapter? Is it because it was an unimportant chapter? No, far from it. For several years it has been said that the IP chapter will be one of the most difficult. Many in the media thought the big battle was Pharmac, but in reality that was never at great risk. The PM and others had often said that the IP chapter was one of the big challenges.

This was a concern, as those of us against the US demands, were worried that the IP chapter would be traded at the lost moment with the US, in order to gain a better deal elsewhere. We wanted to stop that happening, and make the price of compromising on the IP chapter too high, so what did we do.

By we I mean groups such as InternetNZ, IITP, TUANZ and NZ Rise. I don’t speak for any of them, this is just my views as someone who was involved.

It’s well worth reading through. This post makes a good template for practical politics and effective lobbying.

Farrar also points out that those opposing the TPP outright because they don’t like trade deals or they don’t like the Key Government are unlikely to be taken seriously by decision makers and negotiators.

So in the end these opponents do not get much traction either, because their opposition is more about who the Government is, than what is in the TPP. That doesn’t mean their criticism do not have validity, just that their motivations are more about bashing the Government.

Activist opponents may have some successes but more often than not they are wasting their time and energy.

Positive engagement is far more likely to have some success than marching in the streets.

Political lobbying

I just realised when putting this post together – I guess I’m a political lobbyist, so could be directly affected by this.

There is a Green bill (Holly Walker) in the system to try and make political lobying more transparent. An ODT editorial comments:

Lobbying for transparency

While much remains unclear and unresolved in the John Banks-Kim Dotcom donation saga, it has again focused attention on questions of political influence at both national and local levels. Who or what sways the efforts supposedly made on the taxpayer’s behalf by our politicians?

So many questions, so few answers.

It is drawing a long bow to equate political lobbying with proto-corruption. The lobbyist’s art is a time-honoured one. It is perfectly appropriate for lobby groups – be they community, environment or business-oriented – to draw matters that concern them to the attention of politicians.

This is democracy at work.

Yes, many people try to lobby our MPs. I’m an active lobbyist – I’ve had six email replies from MPs in the last week, and I’ve also had twitter replies.

But a private member’s Bill being put forward by the Green Party’s Holly Walker draws attention to the fact that little is known about lobbyists’ activities in New Zealand politics, and this does nothing to enhance transparent democracy nor confidence in its processes.

Ms Walker’s proposed Lobbying Disclosure Bill is modelled on Canadian legislation, which supports a lobbying commissioner, an online registry of lobbyists, a lobbyists’ code of conduct and a requirement for the regular collation and review of lobbying statistics. Australia and the United States have similar systems and Britain is thinking of introducing a public disclosure regime.

What’s the chances of an opposition party bill progressing? For this one the chances look promising:

…support for the Bill in one form or another comes from across the political spectrum. Prime Minister John Key has indicated National thought it was “worth looking at” because New Zealand was one of the few like-minded countries that did not have such a regime.

Good, I hope parliament has a decent look at this. There are some difficult aspects to the bill, it may be hard to find the right balance between insisting on transparency and being too difficult to administer and monitor.  But this should be able to be worked through.

Lobbying Disclosure Bill 2012 (Member’s Bill)

– New Zealand Parliament Bills Digest

I was going to reproduce the bill details here to save having to go to another link but it appears I’m not allowed to do that.

Except for educational purposes permitted under the Copyright Act 1994, no part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, other than by Members of Parliament in the course of their official duties, without the consent of the Parliamentary Librarian, Parliament Buildings, Wellington, New Zealand.

There’s also extensive details on the Green Party website:

Lobbying Disclosure Bill