Lobbyists with free access to Parliament revealed
Several influential lobbyists who have free access to Parliament have been revealed, including Bill English's brother who works for Federated Farmers.
After Speaker Lockwood Smith published a list of 15 lobbyists with access cards to Parliament last night, Conor English called media this morning to say he also had an access card and should have been on the list.
Conor English said it was no secret he had an access card as he was regularly at Parliament talking to MPs on Federated Farmers business and he did not want there to be any questions over why he did not appear on the Speakers list.
But it turns out Conor English may have had his access cut after failing to respond to a request by the Speakers office asking him to confirm that he still required a card.
The Speakers office confirmed this morning there were probably several people in a similar position Conor English.
The list includes some of our most influential lobbyists, including former diplomat Charles Finny, Sky TV's Tony O'Brien and Wellington identities Barrie Saunders and Mark Unsworth, as well as leading unionists Helen Kelly and Peter Conway.
Philippa Falloon, widow of former Cabinet minister John Falloon, and Lady Jane Kidd, wife of former Speaker Doug Kidd, are also on the list.
The Speaker has previously rejected calls to reveal those lobbyists with access cards for Parliament, but agreed to release the list yesterday to coincide with the first reading of a bill sponsored by Green MP Holly Walker calling for greater transparency around lobbyists.
The access card gives holders the right to enter Parliament without passing through the usual security screening and through the public areas.
A spokeswoman said the card did not give the group swipe card access to private areas like the Beehive core, Bowen House or the Speaker's corridor.
There have long been questions over the level of access to MPs by lobbyists, and elsewhere, including in Australia and the United States, they are required to sign lobbyists' registers that allow the public to know which lobbyists have been schmoozing a country's decision-makers.
The Speaker's decision to make the information transparent will be welcomed - but earlier yesterday Dr Smith was on the wrong side of public opinion, after insisting that he give evidence behind closed doors to a select committee hearing evidence on MPs' perks and conditions.
Dr Smith's evidence related to legislation giving an independent authority greater control over perks and follows moves to tighten up the rules around travel.
The legislation is supposed to provide greater transparency around pay and perks.
But after the Government administration committee advertised Dr Smith's evidence as open to the public, it shut out the media and members of the public.
Prime Minister John Key, who has driven the push for transparency, said he was "surprised" by Dr Smith seeking secrecy and made it clear he was unhappy, given the commitments he had made on MPs' perks.
"We're trying to add more transparency to the process."
The Dominion Post