Regulating Lobbyists: Hardly
Posted by Mike Smith
Australian State and Federal Governments pretend (e.g. here) to regulate lobbyists: all they do is create red tape, illusion and loopholes.
The biggest issue is that most lobbyists aren’t regulated at all: professions and in-house lobbyists are not, and only consultant lobbyists are covered.
Arguably, a lawyer, accountant or development planner who lobbies on behalf of a client’s needs isn’t a lobbyist according to Australia’s Governments. Most members of those professions refuse to register as lobbyists or apply lobbyist codes.
Full time lobbyists employed by corporations, or their Directors, or representative bodies like the Australian Medical Association or Queensland Resources Council, are unambiguously not covered by lobbyist regulation – Australian Governments refuse to regulate them.
In all jurisdictions the lobbyist “Code of Conduct” or its equivalent is generally so lowest-common-denominator that it imposes very few ethical obligations beyond those self-imposed by most lobbyists before codes were made.
The two biggest omissions:
- There’s no obligation on lobbyists to ensure their lobbying reflects compliance with Public sector codes of ethics; and
- There’s no obligation for lobbyists to ensure everything they say must be up to date or comprehensive – that is, they are allowed to conceal things when they lobby.
These are absolutely not partisan defects – Governments of all shades have got it wrong.