Start by introducing yourself and explain why strengthening lobbying regulation is important to you.
It might be because you care deeply about a policy issue that industry lobbyists directly work to influence the government against, like gambling reform or divestment from fossil fuels. Or it might be because as an engaged member of your community, you recognise that you don’t have the same access to decision-makers as professional lobbyists, who are able to leverage the cosy networks and swathes of insider-information that they have been gathering behind closed doors.
Outline why and how you would like to make lobbying regulation better
Useful submissions make a clear argument, contain recommendations for action, and provide sources for any references. You can refer to research and data if you like, but equally, it’s valuable to make short submissions that just outline the changes you want to see recommended by the committee. We’ve included some resources below, and if you reference an online publication, please include full web addresses.
When it comes to lobbying regulation reform, there are two key areas we feel are most important to address in submissions. (Find more detail in this explainer)
1. The lack of transparency around professional lobbying
The problem – The current public lobbying register tells us very little. It requires only professional lobbying firms to register, making up only 20% of professional lobbyists. The actual information they are required to disclose is also very light on detail – only the name of the clients they represent are logged on the register, not who they are meeting with, how often or what they are meeting about.
Suggestions for reform – The Register’s requirements should be expanded to include all types of lobbyists, including in-house lobbyists. The level of detail lobbyists must provide about their activities should also be expanded so that the register shows who is meeting whom, when, how often and why.
Ministers should be required to publish their diaries so that the public know who they are meeting with, allowing for scrutiny and accountability.
2. The revolving door between parliamentarian’s offices, industry, and professional lobbying
The problem – In Australia, Ministers and parliamentary secretaries only have to wait 18 months before being able to move into the role of a third-party lobbyist. For government staff, the period is only 12 months.
Without proper checks in place, the revolving door between government and lobbying jobs can lead to a culture that places disproportionate value on the role of networking and incentivises politicians, public servants and ministerial advisors to act in the interest of their future job prospects, rather than making decisions in the public interest.
Suggestions for reform – The ‘cooling-off’ period should be extended from 18 months to three years for all Ministers, Ministerial advisers, and senior public servants who want to move from government to private companies to do professional lobbying. This requirement should be properly enforced by the National Anti-Corruption Commission.