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Put an end to the peddling of influence

As many commentators have noted, while 2020 was a “red tide” for a triumphant Labour, last Saturday’s election results resulted in gallons of blood on the floor for the resoundingly rejected party.

There are more than a few theories about why voters rounded on the same politicians they gifted with an unprecedented MMP majority three years ago, although the often yawning gap between the aspirational rhetoric Jacinda Ardern was especially adroit at and the reality of a government that struggled to deliver on what it promised seems like the most plausible explanation – at this stage anyway.

Another question that’s more likely to get a definitive answer in the not-too-distant regards the post-Parliament career prospects of slightly shop-worn politicians – especially those whose professional experience outside the corridors is rather limited.

While we await the final confirmed vote count, 31 of Labour’s MPs from the previous Parliament look like they’ll need to start updating their CVs.

And it’s not an especially auspicious time to be searching for a new gig either – as reported just yesterday, in September job vacancies took a 4 per cent hit in Auckland and suffered a 3 per cent dip in Wellington compared to the previous month.

It’s a pretty safe bet many of them will become lobbyists involved in attempting to persuade government officials to pass legislation that benefits their clients or employers.

You certainly don’t need to be a Nostradamus to make this prediction – a small stampede from the Beehive to Lobbying Land was already well underway before the voting began.

Former minister Kiri Allan, for example, had already registered a consultancy to assist business clients with “legislative and regulatory reform and advice”, drawing on her “extensive networks” to do so, just two weeks after she resigned as a minister – and while she was still an MP.

As such it would seem that the review she launched into how to better regulate corporate lobbying while still Justice Minister wasn’t a complete waste of time – for her at least.

That review was at least in part prompted by controversy about Kris Faafoi, another ex-Labour Justice Minister, putting out the shingle for his new lobbying firm less than three months after he last had his feet under the Cabinet table.

Other former Labour ministers to recently follow the same path include Clayton Cosgrove, David Cunliffe, Iain Lees-Galloway, and Stuart Nash.

Not that this is a phenomenon that’s unique to Team Red, mind you – plenty of former National MPs and ministers have also parlayed their political knowledge and connections into presumably lucrative careers too.

In fact, the “revolving door” connecting Parliament to private special interests spins like a well-oiled turbine – in another example, in 2017 then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern employed lobbyist GJ Thompson to help get her government going, after which he promptly went back to his previous job of helping corporates lobby the government.

None of which is currently illegal – unlike most comparable countries, there is nothing stopping people from jumping between government and private sector gigs with nary a pause – peddling their accumulated influence in the process.

So here’s a challenge for the incoming government. Despite how tempting it must be to have the comfort of such a cushy career waiting in the wings, how about demonstrating some principle and shutting down what’s an obviously exploitable gap in our democratic process?

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