Is it time for more transparency on lobbyists?
A new investigation on the role of lobbyists raises fresh questions about whether we need better disclosure of who they are and who they work for
Mōrena and welcome to The Bulletin for Tuesday, March 21, by Anna Rawhiti-Connell. Presented in partnership with Z Energy.
In today’s edition: scientists deliver a “final warning” on the climate crisis; who is the new police minister?; anti-trans activist remains set on coming to New Zealand; but first, new investigation highlights previous lobbying efforts by the prime minister’s current chief of staff
“The public interest is far too often subordinate to the narrow interests of the organisation”
The first report from a new investigation by RNZ’s Guyon Espiner yesterday detailed the hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money being spent on lobbying firms by universities, government agencies and State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). This morning on The Spinoff, Duncan Greive reflects on the banality of some of the advice given by those firms and the way the tactics deployed and the money being spent make the job of being a journalist harder. He acknowledges that the work of communications staff is skilled and highly important, but only if it’s done with the right intentions. “Based on Espiner’s reporting, the public interest is far too often subordinate to the narrow interests of the organisation, or a senior leader’s desire to simply avoid engaging with the media at all,” he writes.
"Wondering if you had time this Wednesday for a quick beer"
This morning’s instalment of Espiner’s investigation details how Andrew Kirton, prime minister Chris Hipkins’ chief of staff, worked for lobbying firm Anacta. Acting on behalf of liquor industry giants Asahi and Lion, the firm lobbied the government on the recently deferred container return recycling scheme. Kirton resigned from Anacta a day before it was announced he would be chief of staff in Hipkins’ office. Documents obtained by RNZ show Kirton emailed officials in environment minister David Parker's office in May 2022 setting up meetings for Asahi. “Wondering if you had time this Wednesday for a quick beer,” he wrote. Asahi and Lion signed a letter in June 2022 opposing the government's container return scheme plan.
New Zealand has no public lobbying register or 'cool off' periods
Hipkins responded to questions prompted by Espiner’s investigation at his post-cabinet press conference yesterday. When asked whether there should be a stand down period between having access to Cabinet and ministers before going into a lobbying system, Hipkins said “everyone is entitled to earn a living.” That’s not untrue or unfair. New Zealand is a small country and the likelihood of former politicians and political operators engaging in a dramatic career transformation when they leave a job is low. But it does raise questions about why we don’t have more formal transparency. As Espiner writes, New Zealand has no public lobbying register, no obligation for lobbying firms to disclose their clients and is one of a small number of developed countries where there are no “cool off” periods between government and lobbying jobs. A story in the Guardian yesterday about tobacco companies heightening lobbying efforts amid vaping law reform work in Australia was enabled by the public disclosure provided by its federal lobbyist register, a publicly searchable database that lobbyists there are required to be on.
National call for Labour to come clean
One previous attempt has been made to regulate lobbying in New Zealand by former Green MP Holly Walker who introduced the Lobbying Disclosure Bill in 2012. That suffered from concerns that the definition of lobbyists was too wide and never made it past a first reading in parliament. Following Kris Faafoi’s resignation as a minister in 2022 and subsequent news that he would be starting his own consultancy firm that “offers government relations and public relations services”, the National party called for a cooling off period. Yesterday, National’s Simeon Brown called for Labour to “come clean on the use of external lobbying firms within government departments.” It’s fair to note that there was a fairly extensive list of people, many defined as lobbyists, who had swipe card access to parliament when National was last in government in 2017.
A message from Toby Manhire, editor-at-large and host of podcast Gone by Lunchtime
Independent journalism is never more important than during an election year and we want to cover Election 2023 with rigour, range and humour. To do that, we need your help. Support our mahi by making a donation today.
“Multiple, feasible and effective options” for avoiding worst of climate breakdown
The final Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the climate crisis is out this morning. The report contains no new science but is a summary of eight years of research by hundreds of scientists and the last three IPCC reports published in August 2021, February and April 2022 respectively. Stuff’s Olivia Wannan, Kate Newton and Eloise Gibson outline the evidence presented in six charts. As the next IPCC report isn’t due until 2030, today's summary is likely to be the last while it is still feasible to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. The IPCC says avoiding the worst ravages of climate breakdown is still possible, and there are “multiple, feasible and effective options” for doing so.
New police minister a very new minister
Ginny Andersen, the MP for Hutt South, was named as the new police minister taking over from Stuart Nash yesterday. Andersen first became an MP in 2017 and only became a minister for the first time when Chris Hipkins became prime minister earlier this year. Andersen is chair of parliament’s justice committee. At yesterday’s post-cabinet press conference, Hipkins cited Andersen’s experience working with police but could not recall the exact details of the role. According to her bio at www.beehive.govt.nz, Andersen worked with the New Zealand Police for nine years, where she delivered action plans to reduce the harm associated with gangs, organised crime and methamphetamine.
In the latest edition of The Boil Up, Charlotte Muru-Lanning spotlighted a long-held but seldom seen hospitality tradition, the staff meal.
“Simply by dint of the job, people who work in hospitality tend to be washing dishes, pouring wine, behind a deep fryer or frothing milk when most of us would ordinarily be sitting down to enjoy one of our three daily meals. As such, the staff meal is a tiny yet important instance afforded to workers when hospitality is reciprocated.”
It’s just one example of the way Muru-Lanning interlaces issues of work, business and culture each week to bring subscribers fresh and insightful writing about the food we eat, buy and have prepared for us. I highly recommend subscribing.
“Revoke my visa at your peril”
As Stuff’s Frances Chin reports, an anti-transgender activist has issued a direct response to Chris Hipkins, saying “revoke my visa at your peril”. Yesterday, Chris Schulz reported that Immigration New Zealand were reviewing the decision to allow Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (also known as Posie Parker) into the country after her public appearance in Melbourne over the weekend drew supporters into the streets where they shouted anti-transgender slurs and performed Nazi salutes. Stewart Sowman-Lund explains who Keen-Minshull is and why people want to prevent her entering the country.
Click and collect
Nanaia Mahuta heads to China today as Xi Jinping kicks off a two-day visit to Russia and meets Vladimir Putin
Secondary school teachers could strike again next week
Power cuts, floods, slips, reports of tornado as heavy rain hits South Island
New data tracker from the Herald that explores the rising cost of living
Outgoing Auckland Council CEO Jim Stabback pens “one, long subtweet” likely aimed at Maurice Williamson’s claims about a “ginormous wall” of opaque council spending and bureaucratic delays
Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you liked what you read today, share The Bulletin with friends, family and colleagues.
Charlotte Muru-Lanning explains the plan for ending academic streaming in New Zealand. Henry Cooke explains why a “teal deal” has no appeal. Michelle Duff thinks the Homegrown festival formula is in need of a shake-up. Tommy de Silva has a guide to submitting on Auckland Council's budget.
Sri Lanka made the Black Caps work a little harder for their third consecutive test win and Dylan Cleaver unleashes his summer test player ratings on
Stuff’s Kevin Norquay on why he feels conflicted about New Zealand golfer Danny Lee’s $NZ6.3m win on the LIV golf tour
New Zealand’s decision to ditch the white shorts for women’s football
Alice Soper recaps the Super Rugby Aupiki semi-finals, looks ahead to the final and introduces the Digger Cheerleaders
Inside the Payoff to a Porn Star
You may have heard by now that Donald Trump has heard he will be arrested this week. The US is now on the brink of history as Trump would be the first former American president to be criminally indicted. The New York Times’ Michael Rothfeld recaps the events that led us to this point. It all started with a reality star inviting “a porn actress half his age to a hotel room after a round in a celebrity golf tournament. She arrived in a spangly gold dress and strappy heels. He promised to put her on television and then, she says, they slept together.”
Just their names and who pays them would do. We can make our own judgments once we know those. Obviously if they are doing nothing underhand they won't mind.