The Government Administration Committee
(Committee) has recommended that the Lobbying
Disclosure Bill (the Bill) not be passed.
The intent of the Bill was to enhance trust in the integrity
and impartiality of political decision-making by making political
lobbying more transparent. The Committee supported the intent
of the Bill but concluded there were better ways to address the
issue. The Committee recommended that transparency be
enhanced by developing guidelines for MPs, reporting requirements
in bills and encouraging disclosure of policy papers during the
policy-making process instead of the proposed legislative
The Bill would have established a register of lobbyists and
required lobbyists to adhere to a code of conduct and file returns.
Failure to comply with the code of conduct or file returns
could lead to suspension or removal from the register of lobbyists.
It would have been an offence to engage in lobbying without
being registered. One of the key issues with the bill was the
difficulty of defining "lobbyist" and "lobbying
activity". As drafted, the Bill would have applied to
all organisations and persons contacting members of Parliament on
any issue (including staff), whether or not they were professional
lobbyists or regularly involved in lobbying.
The Committee was concerned the Bill could have the unintended
consequence of limiting the ability of people to express
information and impart information freely and discourage
constituents from engaging with members. The Attorney-General
gave weight to this concern by providing a report that the Bill
could limit the right to freedom of expression as affirmed by the
New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 well beyond what would be
required to regulate the activities of lobbyists.
Australia and Canada both have compulsory registration regimes
and the bill followed the Canadian approach. The Committee
however considered that the approach was not appropriate in the New
The Government Administration Committee made a number of
non-legislative recommendations to encourage proactive disclosure
and reporting and enhance the transparency of the policy-making
Guidelines for MPs: that the House develop
guidelines for members of Parliament on handling communications
relating to parliamentary business, which could include mechanisms
for disclosure and reporting by MPs and lobbyists and definitions
of "lobbyist" and "lobbying activity";
Reporting on consultations in the development of
legislation: that the regulatory impact statements and
explanatory notes of parliamentary bills include the names of any
non-departmental organisations consulted during the development of
related legislation and policy; and
Proactive disclosure of policy papers: that the
proactive release of policy papers be encouraged to make the
policymaking process more transparent.
The recommendations are aimed at encouraging disclosure and
reporting to make the legislative process more transparent.
These requirements, if implemented, will add to the existing
disclosure requirements set by Cabinet. It seems likely that
we'll see more proactive disclosure by government and
transparency of lobbying in New Zealand as a result of the
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