Inquiry into political lobbying recommends another inquiry, rather than the solutions already on the table


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Civil society advocates have today voiced their disappointment with a Senate committee report on access to parliament house by lobbyists. The Senate Finance and Public Administration Reference Committee conducted the inquiry upon the urging of Independent Senator David Pocock. 

The Committee received nearly three hundred and fifty submissions, the vast majority of which called for major changes to strengthen Australia’s federal lobbying regime. The joint submission from the OurDemocracy campaign, an alliance of civil society groups, recommended the following:

  1. Extend the federal Register of Lobbyists to include in-house lobbyists 
  2. Require lobbyists to provide regular disclosure of their lobbying activity
  3. Strengthen enforcement of the lobbyist code of conduct with an independent regulator and proper penalties
  1. Require Ministers, Shadow Ministers and senior Ministerial staff to publish their diaries 
  2. Stop Ministers moving into industry jobs by lengthening the cooling off period to three years

These recommendations, and others to strengthen the current under-regulated regime, were echoed by the vast majority of submissions. Despite this, the Committee has only recommended that another review be conducted into broadening the scope of the lobbyist register, along with restoring the ‘unescorted day pass’ as a means of accessing the building.

The inquiry suffered from narrow terms of reference and was chaired by Liberal Senator and former lobbyist Richard Colbeck. Senator Colbeck served as Chairman of Responsible Wagering Australia, a peak lobby group for the gambling industry, prior to being re-elected to the Senate in 2018.

Ray Yoshida, Campaigner at Australian Democracy Network said:

“Current federal lobbying laws are inadequate and unregulated. Through hundreds of submissions, many experts and community members provided quality evidence and solutions, tried and tested in other jurisdictions, to this inquiry. The vast majority of that advice has been ignored in favour of kicking the can down the road to an additional process.”

“The only barrier to fixing our lobbying laws right now is political will. We commend the dissenting reports from Senators Larissa Waters and David Pocock which called for a significant overhaul of the current regime.”

Mark Zirnsak, Senior Social Justice Advocate at Uniting Church Australia (Synod of Victoria and Tasmania) said:

“Our current system of lobbying carries with it a real risk of corruption and disproportionate influence by powerful industries. The recommendations released today are a missed opportunity to introduce rules to reduce the ability of lobbyists to undermine the public good.”

“Public trust in government is low and the shady practices of the professional lobbying industry are contributing to the problem. There are dozens of lobbyists for every member of Parliament, saturating input in favour of big industry where community voices should be more prominent”

Clancy Moore, CEO at Transparency International Australia said:
“Powerful industries like gambling, fossil fuel sector and defence employ armies of lobbyists to meet with ministers, MPs and senior public servants often under a cloak of secrecy.”

“To safeguard our democracy we need to make lobbying transparent, publish ministers’ diaries and shut the revolving door that too often sees former Ministers, MPs and senior public servants become lobbyists and industry advocates work in government.”

Journalists with enquiries should contact Isabella Morand.