“The Prime Minister has failed to disclose her communications with lobbyist GJ Thompson, raising further questions about her ongoing relationship with her former chief of staff”, ACT Leader David Seymour says.
“The Prime Minister’s office has said she ‘seeks out Mr Thompson as a sounding board from time to time.’ However, none of the Prime Minister’s interactions with Mr Thompson appear in her ministerial diary released on the Beehive website.
“Last year, the Government undertook to publicly release details of Ministers’ diaries consistent with its promise to be the most open and transparent administration in New Zealand’s history. The Prime Minister has released details of phone calls and meetings with a wide range of people. So, why is she keeping her communications with Mr Thompson a secret?
“I have asked the Prime Minister what interactions she has had with Mr Thompson since he left her office in February 2018 and returned to lobbying. She avoided the question by saying she had had none in her capacity as Prime Minister.
“This is at odds with the statement that the Prime Minister uses Mr Thompson as a sounding board. The PM now appears to be attempting to hide her communications with Mr Thompson by wearing a different ‘hat’.
“The Government has said the aim of releasing Minister’s diaries is to improve trust and confidence in government and to promote the accountability of Ministers. This is unlikely to be achieved when we do not know the details of communications between the Prime Minister and a close advisor who is also a lobbyist.
“Jacinda Ardern has said she doesn’t know who Mr Thompson’s clients are, so how does she know whether their discussions are relevant to his clients’ commercial interests?
“Clare Curran was ultimately forced out of the Cabinet for failing to declare meetings with Carol Hirschfeld and Derek Handley. The Prime Minister chastised her for a lack of transparency. Why is she holding herself to a different standard?
“ACT has already called on the Prime Minister to explain:
- Why she said Mr Thompson was on a leave of absence from Thompson Lewis while he was her chief of staff when Companies Office records show he remained a shareholder and director;
- What information he had access to as chief of staff that might have benefited his clients; and,
- How the conflict between his duties as chief of staff and his interests as a lobbyist was managed.
“The Prime Minister now needs to publicly release details of her communications with Mr Thompson so New Zealanders can have trust and confidence in her and so she can be held to account.”