Fox in Charge of Hen House: Gambling, Biotech and...

Business-with-the-beehive

Danyl Strype of Disintermedia.net.nz comments on the lack of even a revolving door between some of the people holding public office, and jobs in the public service, while also running industry lobby groups.

Brian Corbett is executive director of pokie machine operators lobby group the Community Gaming Association (CGA - you've got to love the euphemistic name, and the staunch rugby boys illustrating the front page of their website). In a July 2012 press release for CGA, he lashed out at proposed changes to pokie machine regulations, saying
"The idea that councils should be responsible for the distribution model and at the same time act as a regulator is a combination that could never function in the real world". Really Brian?

Let's have a closer look at the real world of pokie regulation. The Mana Community Grants Foundation was set up as a charitable trust in 2002 to operate pokie machines in Porirua, and distribute their profits in the area through community grants. Its chairman is John Burke, who also chairs the CGA. He is also a current Greater Wellington Regional Councilor, and chairman of the Porirua Community Trust, as well as a former Mayor of Porirua. According to the Mana Community Grants Foundation website, its other trustees are:

Litea Ah-Hoi JP: Porirua City Councillor and Member of the Porirua Community Trust

Jenny Brash QSO: Former Mayor of Porirua and Member of the Porirua Community Trust

Sue Dow: Porirua City Councillor and Member of the Porirua Community Trust

Nick Leggett: Mayor of Porirua and Member of the Porirua Community Trust

Tim Sheppard: Porirua City Councillor and Member of the Porirua Community Trust

What was that Brian? Council's shouldn't be openly in charge of regulating pokie machines as well as operating them and distributing their proceeds? Strangely it seems you're perfectly happy for your colleagues to be doing exactly that behind closed doors, which makes me wonder why you're so antsy about the practice being normalized, and perhaps opened up to greater public scrutiny.

Brian is right that a revolving door between businesses, and the public service organisations which are meant to regulate them, is a recipe for nepotism and systemic corruption. What he willfully ignores is that, in the case of Porirua and his organisation's chairman, there's no door whatsoever. Bring the operation of the pokies and the distribution of their "pub charities" grants schemes under full public control can't make things any worse. There's no guarantee however, that it will make them any better.

In another example of the fox moving into the henhouse, Dr William Rolleston - founding shareholder of biotech supply firm South Pacific Sera and former chairman of biotech industry lobby group Life Sciences Network - is now handing out big wads of public money to fledgling corporates as part of the "Innovation Board", a well-funded corporate welfare agency operating out of the new Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment. In another example of the lack of even a token revolving door, he is also carrying on his biotech lobbying activities as vice-president of Federated Farmers. Jon Carapiet of GE Free NZ highlighted the conflicts of interest involved in Rolleston's business, lobbying, and governmental roles, responding to the announcement of Rolleston's promotion to VP of Fed Farmers with a press release entitled 'Federated Farmers "lobbying" Role Must Not Conflict With New Zealand GE Free Values' (and speaking of freudian website imagery, look at the two suits sandwiching the woman in the banner of the Fed Farmers website).

It's official folks; we live in a banana republic. Time for a coconut revolution?

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