Let’s stamp out the cronyism


Thank you for smoking

If you’ve ever seen that movie, Thank You For Smoking, you’ll have received a light-hearted insight into what lobbyists in the US get up to on behalf of clients.

While that movie was a bit of a spoof, it’s also not entirely removed from the truth. Professional lobbyists are big business there, and in most democracies (our Aussie sister company is registered across the Ditch), and they are increasing so here.

So now our government has proposed a bit of a crackdown on people like me and my company.

I was part of the team of PR people who lobbied against this move when it was considered about 15 years ago.

And I did so because I didn’t want my company to be (unnecessarily, in my view) regulated.

But now I’m not so sure.

Far from being our most transparent government, as we were initially promised, I’m a little concerned that we have inherited a slightly tarnished administration.

I don’t know the details behind Stuart Nash’s leaking of Cabinet minutes, but it doesn’t look good. And no one knows what will come from the ensuing investigation into all his correspondence going back years.

Nor does it look great that Kris Faafoi can be in Cabinet one minute and a lobbyist the next. No law against it, but …

And before the feedback comes in, I’m not suggesting for one minute that National, or Act, are any better. They’re just not under the spotlight yet.

Lobbying isn’t the sole preserve of the hired help – people like my company. Every industry association goes down to Parliament at some point, seeking a meeting with a politician, to discuss some legislative/regulatory issue.

Nothing wrong with that. Our lawmakers and policymakers need to hear from the coalface so they understand the issues.

Most big corporates have government affairs or regulatory affairs managers who interact with Parliament regularly. As they should. Government needs to better understand business.

But do you really want to record and regulate every single interaction between all these people, the vast majority of whom are honest and well-meaning? Do you really want the heavy hand of government to interfere in and control that?

Especially now we know what the heavy hand of certain government ministers can do in their own best interests.

Maybe we do.

Because it seems lobbying, a lawful and important part of democracy, has morphed into cronyism. And that needs to be stamped out.