Monday, March 05, 2018

A good move

The Green Party has a reputation for clean and open government. And at their conference over the weekend, they reinforced that, announcing proactive release of Ministerial diaries and a ban on all MPs and staff accepting corporate gifts:

Green Party Co-leader James Shaw has today announced two important new transparency measures, which will apply to Green Party Ministers, MPs and staff, to help counter the influence of money in politics.

Green Party Ministers will soon proactively release their ministerial diaries, to show who they’ve met with and why. Additionally, Green Ministers, MPs and staff will not accept corporate hospitality, such as free tickets to events unrelated to their work.

Good. While nobody calls it that, corporate "hospitality" is simply a bribe, an attempt to gain favour by picking up minor (or major) expenses. Corporations don't do it unless they expect to gain from it, and the tale the pecuniary interest records tell of how such bribes are distributed show us that that is exactly what is going on. Its good to see a party living up to its values on eliminating corruption from politics, and its a challenge to other parties to follow suit.

But while media attention has focused on the refusing bribes aspect, the proactive release of Ministerial diaries may be more far-reaching. This is something transparency advocates have been calling for for years, because it will expose who is attempting to influence Ministers. Lobbying is so effective partly because it is secret, behind closed doors. Being able to connect the dots between Ministerial meetings and policy changes will mean exposing that influence, and force Ministers to either publicly justify policies, or refuse lobbyists' demands. And that's good for the public.

It also puts Labour's "Minister for Open Government" to shame. Shouldn't she be announcing measures like this? Or does their view of "open government" not actually extend to real openness?