Caesar’s wife

A while ago I noted that it was strange that a whole heap of publicly funded organisations and SOEs were using a private lobbying company, Saunders Unsworth, to lobby the minister responsible for their sector.  Many of those organisations were education institutions including Massey University, Otago University, the metro polytechnics and Victoria University of Wellington.

Now, according to the Otago Daily Times, a senior lobbiest from that same agency has been awarded the chair of Education New Zealand, the crown agency which encourages international education.

The ODT notes:

He [Charles Finny] works for Saunders Unsworth, a government relations and public policy firm, where former National Party Cabinet minister Roger Sowry is a board member.

Mr Sowry is also the ministerially appointed chair of both Weltec and Whitireia Polytechnic.

So, we have public education institutions paying a private company so that they can speak to their own education minister.  And that private agency has some of its staff recently being offered key leadership positions in the education sector by the same minister. And the lobbying company has close links with the same political party as the minister making these appointments. It doesn’t engender a public sense of dispassionate propriety by all involved.

Annabel Young – a lobbyist with form

Increased prescription charges? No thanks! But here’s Annabel Young, Chief Executive of the Pharmacy Guild advocating increasing them.

And Young is a lobbyist with form.  She was a National Party MP between 1997 and 2002, so she’s well connected with many current National Ministers.  Her father Bill was a National Party Cabinet Minister, and her sister Nicola was a National Party candidate in 2005. Between 2005 and 2008 Annabel Young was Chief Executive of Federated Farmers. Before that she was Tax Director at the Institute of Chartered Accountants, and in that role convinced Inland Revenue to allow farmers’ past tax deductions to stand when they had converted part of their farm for a different operation and faced large backdated tax bills for items previously deducted. That dubious achievement no doubt helped get her the job as boss of the Feds.

So when Health Minister Tony Ryall says the Government is “not currently looking at increasing the co-payment for subsidised medicines”, you can see why I’m not totally convinced.  Maybe that’s one policy the Government won’t be looking at until after the election.