18 April 2012
The Prime Minister, claiming that his Government has done more for transparency than any other, said that he was not fundamentally opposed to a register of lobbyists. The private member’s bill on lobbying may make progress. Until recently New Zealand has seemed oblivious to developments elsewhere. Now, media and public opinion suggests that the tide for regulating lobbyists is on the rise here also.
The rationale had been that formal controls were unnecessary as we are blessed with low levels of corruption. But that is somewhat hollow. Comparable Scandinavian jurisdictions are tightening their processes, and the OECD expects member states to implement its Principles of Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying.
If, as many claim, there is no problem, there may be little detriment in codifying openness. Responding to public sentiment can only be politically advantageous
The purpose of lobbying is to grease the wheels. Grease makes the wheels spin more freely. It increases efficiency. It obviates what can be seen as the wasteful processes of democratic government.
The State Sector Act requires efficient, effective and economical management of departments. But the legislation also requires that standards of integrity are imbued and maintained. Those standards create friction.
Measures to exclude personal interest, disclose decision-making processes, and provide transparency are a brake on any base motivations of those exercising power. Experience shows that lobbyists lubricate the system; their craft is to reduce drag.
Integrity measures create resistance to self interest. Ironically the inefficiency of that resistance is a ‘good thing’. It reinforces the democratic process, supports the rule of law and promotes trust in government. It embodies the spirit of service.