We blogged yesterday about Charles Chauvel's proposal to exempt unions from Holly Walker's Lobbying Disclosure Bill. It seems that we aren't the only ones to have noticed Mr Chauvel's attempt to have transparency on Labour's terms.
Yesterday's Waikato Times editorial was devoted to the issue. It began thus:
We all have access to our elected representatives (or should have). But some professional lobbyists have much easier access than others, as was confirmed last week when Speaker Lockwood Smith published a select list of people who have access cards that exempt them from the security procedures applied to all others who visit Parliament.Former diplomat Charles Finny, Sky TV's Tony O'Brien and prominent public relations executives Barrie Saunders and Mark Unsworth were on the list, along with leading trade unionists Helen Kelly and Peter Conway.The release of the names was timely. It coincided with the first reading of the Lobbying Disclosure Bill, which has been sent to a select committee for consideration. Introduced by Green MP Holly Walker, it aims to bring greater transparency to the lobbying of MPs and their staff and would complement other recent steps to promote open government.The bill would require paid lobbyists to register and file returns of lobbying activity with the auditor-general. This information would be made public and, along with a code of conduct, should help allay public suspicions about the exercise of undue or improper influence.Ms Walker is among those who acknowledge the bill's defects. The definition of lobbying and lobbyists needs clarifying and the attorney-general says the draft bill could impede communication between MPs and the wider public. But it would bring this country into line with countries like Australia, the United States and Canada, which demand less secrecy around those who press for political favours.
We don't have any problems with the principle of greater transparency in this area; as long as transparency is applied across the board. And the sponsor of the Bill, Green MP Holly Walker acknowledges that the legislation as debated in the Parliament last week can be improved upon.
Charles Chauvel is seeking to improve on the Bill in his own unique way as we explained yesterday. But the leader writer from the Waikato Times isn't buying it one little bit; read on:
Labour's Charles Chauvel says the bill can be made more workable by exempting the community and voluntary sector from a major burden. He has the gall to include trade unions in that group. This attempt to confine the bill's scope to commercial organisations, as one commentator observed, would introduce “loopholes you could drive a busload of lobbyists through” while undermining the bill's objectives.
And then comes the biggest smackdown of all:
Wanting to flush National's business mates into the open but allow Labour's union mates to continue lobbying covertly is shamefully unprincipled. More perplexing, it would expose a well-intentioned bill to a partisan buffeting that would threaten to sink it.
This is a stinging criticism of both Mr Chauvel, and his sneaky attempt to tilt the playing field in the favour of his union mates; or should that be his union masters? And in our ever-humble opinion, the stinging riposte is wholly merited.