New measures to increase lobbying transparency
- Requesting the Speaker remove swipe-card access to Parliament for business, non-government sector and union representatives
- Offering Government support to third-party lobbyists to establish a voluntary code of conduct
- A refreshed Cabinet Manual being published this month sets clear expectations for Ministers in relation to conduct and decisions when considering future employment
- Starting long-term work on policy options to regulate lobbying
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has announced several steps to introduce greater transparency around lobbying at Parliament.
“I said two weeks ago when lobbying came up for the first time in a while that I would go away and look at the rules around it and whether they needed strengthening. I’ve done that,” Chris Hipkins said.
“It’s very important we have a sensible and transparent system that does not give the impression that lobbyists enjoy an unfair advantage over other New Zealanders.
“Today I’m setting out four changes to help build greater transparency and balance around lobbying.
“First, I’ve commissioned a major piece of work that will look at policy options for regulating lobbying activities. To do it well, will require considerable work and consultation and I anticipate the advice coming back in 2024.
“This was last looked at in 2012 and ultimately didn’t land because it was too broad in scope. I want Parliament to take another look, learning the lessons from that process.
“While this work is underway, there are three measures we can take now and start to get in place straight away.
“The first is taking away swipe-card access for lobbyists to Parliament. Currently, some lobbyists as well as business and union representatives have swipe-card access to the building. My view is they should go through the front door like every other New Zealander.
“Access to Parliament is controlled by the Speaker, but I’ve written to him today to express the Government’s view this access should be removed.
“I want, as much as possible, for this to be a bi-partisan issue and I call on other political parties to support this measure.
“Second, I am calling on third-party lobbyists to develop a voluntary code of conduct that would enhance transparency by, for example, including the names of the clients they represent on their websites.
“Others involved in lobbying, for instance peak bodies, industry associations and other entities may also wish to sign up for this as well.
“The Government will offer assistance from the Ministry of Justice to help draft the code and to provide research on overseas practises and guidance.
“Thirdly, a refreshed Cabinet Manual that is being published this month makes it clear that, while in office, Ministers’ conduct and decisions should not be influenced by the prospect or expectation of future employment with a particular organisation or sector.
“I’m also today, publicly releasing the terms of reference for the review into Stuart Nash’s ministerial communications with donors.
“The review will be carried out by the Secretary of the Cabinet and is expected to report back in two months.
“It will look at whether there were other breaches of Cabinet collective responsibility or confidentiality, or perceived or actual conflicts of interest in communications he had with people and entities who made declared donations to his 2017 or 2020 electorate campaigns.
“Communications in scope are those by letter, email, text message, WhatsApp or Signal between 26 October, 2017 and 28 Match, 2023 when Mr Nash held ministerial portfolios.
“New Zealand should rightly be proud of our open and accessible government. I hope these measures will go some way to further increase transparency and the integrity of government.”