On reflection, there’s a relatively simple way to fix the Lobbying Disclosure Bill (see my last post).
Most of us agree that lobbying should be more transparent, but we also all agree that the lobbyists we are most concerned about are those on the other side of the political divide.
People on the left worry about the ability of big corporations to get their way with politicians, while those on the right probably stress over the malign influence of unions and teachers.
Do we then require every person or organisation that wants to lobby an MP to register as a lobbyist?
No, don’t be ridiculous! We need only make the evil ones do it.
Yes, I can anticipate your objection. How do we decide who is evil, you ask?
I’ve got that sorted too. In some cases it will be obvious. For example, if someone wants to establish an adventure park on the outskirts of Hamilton where visitors can pay to squash puppies with large mallets, it’s pretty clear that their people will need to register as lobbyists if they want to go talking to ministers about changing animal welfare rules.
Similarly, the representatives of any large multinational whose goods kill millions of people a year even when taken as recommended, are probably going to have to register as lobbyists if they want to engage with politicians about maintaining sales of their death-bringing products.
In situations where there is doubt about the evil of the lobbyists concerned, my plan would require them to register at a separate Register of Possibly Evil Lobbyists. Anyone who put their name on the Register of Possibly Evil Lobbyists would then have 20 working days to submit an application for a hearing before a special board, which would consider whether or not the lobbyists concerned were genuinely evil, or just misunderstood nice folks.
This Evil Lobbyist Consideration Administration Board (ELCAB) would make its determination, and applicants would have the right to appeal adverse decisions to a higher body, the Evil Lobbyist Consideration Appeal Authority (ELCAA). An appeal to the High Court would be allowed from that body.
Following a determination that a lobbyist is evil, the lobbyist would then register on the Register of Lobbyists.
So that all sounds pretty simple, even if a little bit of regulation might be needed to set out how the procedures of these bodies will operate, and who will sit on them. The composition of the membership of ELCAB will be critical if we are to recognise true evil, so it will need representatives from each major religion, as well as from secular and humanist groups. Criminal organisations such as the Mongrel Mob, Black Power and US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team will need to be represented, to ensure the right expertise on evil is available to the board. The procedures required to be followed means ELCAB will need to be staffed by at least a dozen lawyers, and be co-chaired by a High Court judge. I expect a full board session will involve about seventy or eighty board members.
Appeals to the ELCAA will be heard by the former directors of Bridgecorp Holdings. If you want expertise on evil, go to the best.
This is all very well if you enjoy drowning kittens or fantasize about stealing vast amounts of money from children’s charities, in which case it’s clear what you need to do: just register as a lobbyist. But for those who perhaps aren’t sure whether they’re quite evil enough and don’t want the hassle of applying to ELCAB, there are alternatives. One is to clean your act up and become a model citizen, giving all your money to the homeless and donating all your time to charities. The other, simpler, option, is just to be much more evil. At least you’ll know where you stand legally.
But if you think this is all a bit silly because the true nature of evil is difficult to define, and definitions of evil differ from one culture to the next, I’ve got news for you. Under my plan that kind of lax attitude towards right and wrong will pretty much guarantee that if you go within a hundred yards of an MP or elected official you’re gonna have to register as a lobbyist.