The Lobbying Disclosure Bill in the name of Green MP Holly Walker – a bill that would require lobbyists to face tougher scrutiny – breaks human rights laws on freedom of speech, according to the Government’s lawyer Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson. His Report concludes:
This Bill significantly limits core democratic expression. In going well beyond what would be required to regulate the activities of lobbyists, it risks creating a chilling effect for average New Zealanders who may fear criminal sanctions for merely communicating with a Member of Parliament on behalf of their business in relation to government policy. This would be an unacceptable limit on a core element of freedom of expression.
On the question of whether any justification exists for the limitation of freedom of expression imposed by the proposed legislation, he states:
The limits on freedom of expression sought to be imposed by the Bill are greater than reasonably necessary to meet the objective. This is because, primarily due to poor drafting, the Bill goes well beyond the activities of professional lobbyists to include a wide range of other activities.
The proposed law aims to bring transparency to MPs dealings with lobbyists, argues Ms Holly. The Attorney-General Chris Finlayson is required to report to Parliament if a bill appears inconsistent with human rights legislation. Ms Walker’s bill makes it a criminal offence for lobbyists to impart information to ministers, MPs and their staff without signing up to a register and a code of conduct. Such “lobbyists” under her bill would include businesses, charities, trade unions and interest groups etc. Her bill which is modelled on a Canadian version, also regulates how politicians receive that information.
Mr Finlayson concluded this limited the ability to express information “freely”.
1. Report of Attorney-General under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 on the Lobbying Disclosure Bill
2. Lobbying Disclosure Bill: Explanatory note. Green Party. Holly Walker MP
3. Green’s bill rips veil off lobbying. by Kate Chapman Stuff.co.nz April 10, 2012
4. Greens’ lobbyist bill gets MP’s seal of approval. By Adam Bennett & Claire Trevett. April 17, 2012