In November 2015 the Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Legislation Bill was passed by the New Zealand Parliament. An omnibus bill, it amended numerous different acts in relation to (among other things) money laundering, organised crime, corruption and bribery offences. One of its stated aims was to bring legislation up to date to enable New Zealand to finally ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which it did in December that year. The merits and potential demerits of the bill have been discussed previously (Macaulay and Gregory, 2015), but one thing that requires further attention is the creation of a new offence of ‘trading in influence’. The creation of the new offence of trading in influence can be admired both for its adherence to the letter and spirit of UNCAC, and also because it is potentially more far-sighted than may first appear.
Does New Zealand have a case to answer?
Whether or not trading in influence is seen as a problem in New Zealand will very much depend on one’s perspective on what constitutes legitimate political activity. This article does not seek to cast moral aspersions on any of them. What it set out to do was to scope out some of the examples of trading in influence that have been identified elsewhere (both in literature and in practice) and ascertain whether or not these could be found within New Zealand. It is unquestionable that they can: it is no exaggeration to suggest that most of our political institutions and processes rely to some degree or other on influence.
The research agenda now is to look at a number of questions:
- Just how prevalent is each of these forms of trading in influence within the political system?
- Just how detrimental is each of these forms of trading in influence to New Zealand’s political life?
- What are the implications of these activities in light of the new offence in the Crimes Act, section 105F?
- What might constitute the proper forms of such activities?
- What is the most appropriate way to regulate these activities?