The Green Party can reveal details of an exclusive Wellington dinner where a select group paid about $3000 each to the National Party to dine with and lobby the Prime Minister in a cash for access deal involving the Prime Minister’s own staff.
The Green Party has been told the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Wayne Eagleson was with him at the September 2011 dinner at the Museum Hotel which suggests John Key was there in his capacity as the Prime Minister, not just a member of the party or an MP.
“This crosses the line drawn by the Prime Minister himself: that Ministers were free to attend pricey Cabinet Club style fundraisers for the National Party in their capacity as members of the party or an MP,” Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman said.
“This $3000 a head dinner with John Key shows how enough money can buy access, not just to Government Ministers, but to the Prime Minister himself.
“It is concerning that the Prime Minister’s chief of staff accompanied him to the event, which would suggest John Key was there in his official capacity as Prime Minister. It is completely inappropriate for people to pay to access the Prime Minister and the fact that the National Party benefits from this raises serious questions over a possible conflict of interest.
The dinner, on September 13 2011, was organised by hotel owner Chris Parkin, who invited a select group of Wellington’s business elite to attend.
“The Prime Minister himself has confirmed he’s attended 53 Cabinet Club events where private donors paid thousands to the National Party in order to meet him. The Wellington dinner was run on a similar basis.
“I think ordinary New Zealanders would be shocked to learn this is how the National Government goes about its business.
“These cash for access deals are a dangerous corrosion of our democracy.
“The Maurice Williamson and Judith Collins sagas prove the National Party treats more seriously the concerns of people who give them money.
“Lots of ordinary New Zealanders would love to have dinner with the Prime Minister and talk to him about the issues they want him to follow up. But they can’t afford to go to one of his exclusive dinners.
“Ministers have special powers that other MPs don’t. They have an obligation to avoid the risk they could use those powers to their own benefit, or to benefit those who give their party lots of money. These dinners are a blatant breach of that obligation.
“New Zealand needs a ministerial disclosure regime, like that proposed by the Greens, which would mean the Prime Minister would have to say who he met that night and what they lobbied him about.
“A $3000 dinner with the Prime Minister is worlds away from the $25 ticket to a quiz night, or movie night or other types of fundraisers everyday New Zealanders are used to. And its completely different from the normal voluntary political donations that parties rely on to survive.
“Though John Key may insist these cash for access fundraisers are technically legal, that does not mean they are right,” Dr Norman said.