A six month delay of the Select Committee’s report back on the Greens’ Lobbying Bill proves just how poorly drafted and misguided it is – the bill should be withdrawn, ACT Leader John Banks said today.
The Government Administration Select Committee will not report back on Green MP Holly Walker’s Lobbying Disclosure Bill until July 2013, six months later than originally planned.
“ACT was always concerned that this bill was too far reaching and would stifle the ability of people and organisations to freely communicate with MPs,” Mr Banks said.
“However, we supported it at first reading because we support the principle of transparency and open government, and we wanted to give the public and those who would be impacted by the bill a chance to have their say.
“The public has now spoken and the bill has been slammed.
“The Clerk of the House, the Office of the Auditor-General, the Attorney General, and the legal and business communities have all criticised the bill. Many in the community and voluntary sector are also opposed to it due to the significant administrative burden it would place on their already limited resources.
“In its current form, the bill would do more harm than good:
- It provides an unfair advantage to lobbyists from powerful voluntary organisations by only demanding that paid lobbyists have to register.
- It would force organisations who want to raise an issue with their local MP to join a lobbyist register.
- The confusion it creates around who is a lobbyist and when they are lobbying would increase demand for professional lobbyists who know how to navigate the law.
“An anti-lobbying bill that helps professional lobbyists at the expense of wider public consultation will go down as the biggest own goal in the history of Private Members’ Bills.
“Ms Walker has suggested that the bill could be tightened, but in reality the more exemptions that are made the more unfair it will become - some people would have to disclose their meetings with MPs, while others wouldn’t.
“On the flipside, if it is broadened to include anyone who meets an MP it will stifle freedom of speech and force people to use professional lobbyists.
“The bill has now been criticised by almost everyone it impacts. It is highly unlikely that this bill can be salvaged.
“ACT calls on the Greens to drop this bill,” Mr Banks said.