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Conflicts Exposed In Ministerial Offices

Conflicts Exposed In Ministerial Offices

National MP Nick Smith is astounded at the blatant conflicts of interest arising from staff working simultaneously for Government lobbyists and Government Ministers.

"Standards are being severely compromised when lobbyists are working for PR companies one day and Government Ministers the next. It creates huge conflicts of interest," Dr Smith said.

Dr Smith revealed in Parliament today that an Account Director with international public relations agency Porter Novelli, which has contracts with both TransAlta and Westco Lagan, worked as a Press Secretary for the Minister of Energy and Minister responsible for Timberlands West Coast.

Dr Smith also revealed that the Minister of Immigration's Press Secretary works four days a week for the Government and one day a week as an Account Manager for lobbyists Morris Communications.

"This is at variance with the Prime Minister's promise that Labour would set new standards both in terms of behaviour and performance. It is not only important that Ministers offices are free of outside commercial interests, but also that they are seen to be free.

"Ministers' offices are privy to extremely sensitive information that corporates would pay a small fortune for. Public relations companies justify their exorbitant fees based on their knowledge of the political process and access to politicians. The conflicts are unavoidable.

"The public is already nervous about the growing role of paid lobbyists and having them work on both the inside and outside of Government at the same time completely oversteps the line.

"The hypocrisy is exposed with Trevor Mallard's outrage in 1998 against Roger Estall working for insurance broker Marsh McLennan and the Fire Service simultaneously. He said this was 'abhorrent', 'outrageous' and 'the sort of corruption that we would expect in countries like Indonesia'.

"The Prime Minister appointed herself Minister in charge of Ministerial Services to set high standards. The existing conflicts of interest must end and the boundary between lobbyists and Government must be made clear," Mr Smith said.

Ends

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