Update on Lobbying Project

As many of our members would be aware in April 2023, the Government announced several measures aimed at providing greater transparency around lobbying at Parliament.

The Ministry of Justice is leading two of these measures by:

  • supporting “third-party” lobbyists (people who lobby on behalf of others) to come together to develop a voluntary code of conduct. The code will serve as a set of guidelines to improve transparency and accountability.
  • undertaking a review of the different policy options for regulating lobbying activities.

Their aim is to strike the right balance between enabling legitimate advocacy that benefits society as a whole and protecting the public interest in having transparency around these activities. They started by identifying the full range of interested people and groups.

Back in June 2023 MoJ invited PRINZ to participate as part of the Lobbying Project Team which we accepted and participated in 4 project team huis and numerous email communications until the latest meeting in late January. We were delighted to see that many of the companies who nominated contributing participants on the project team were current PRINZ members.
The findings based on discussions to date are available for you to review on the Ministry’s Lobbying Project webpage with the final update due in the next few weeks.
In short the collective views to date:

  • There does not appear to be a widespread issue in Aotearoa with regard to irregularities in lobbying. Are we trying to fix an issue that doesn’t exist?
  • Project team were broadly supportive of a voluntary code of conduct however the first draft discussed could benefit from a more high-level inclusive tone with an expectation of positive behaviours.
  • Project team noted there are already a number of government-led mechanisms to support transparency, such as the requirement for government to proactively release Ministerial diaries.
  • There was consensus that standdown periods for departing politicians who move into the lobbying arena was required Attendees thought this should be an issue for government to address through government-led mechanisms (such as contracts, Cabinet Manual and legislation), rather than by the lobbying sector. Further suggestions included that when the code of conduct is published, the Ministry should encourage the government to implement legislation requiring standdown periods for individuals moving between public official and lobbying roles.
  • Further suggestions included that without an industry association, this sector does not seem to naturally fit in a voluntary code. They expressed support for establishing an industry association, but recognised that to do so would require time and financial resources beyond the capacity of small firms in the industry.

On several occasions throughout these meetings it was suggested that PRINZ’s robust but clear Code of Ethics seemed to provide all the necessary components of a voluntary code for
lobbyists. If consensus decided, there could be some minor adjustments to wording to incorporate the nuances of lobbying and public official relationships.

We currently await the final update for the project team and advisement of next steps including direction on the intention of the government to progress this project.

If you have any feedback or thoughts on this body of work or PRINZ’s approach to this please forward them to susanne@prinz.org.nz

Related Articles