Written by: Donna Kirk – The Pro Forum Community of Practice
The definition of a Lobby Group1 is a body formed to influence legislation on a particular issue.
Lobby groups are important and a legitimate activity. They are an important part of the democratic process and are seen as a representative of individuals and organisations and help them communicate their views on matters of public interest to the government and opposition and, in doing so, improve outcomes for the community.
Australia has a Lobbying Code of Conduct2 along with a Register of Lobbyists3 with very clear requirements for the various parties – the lobby groups and the Australian Government. The code helps to ensure that contact between lobbyists and Australian Government representatives is in line with public expectations of transparency, integrity and honesty.
Under the code, Australian Government representatives must only meet with third-party lobbyists who are registered.
Banks, mining and energy giants, pharmaceutical companies, casinos, Amazon, Google and Facebook all engage lobbyists. Lobbyists also work on behalf of not-for-profits and community groups, including for veterans, social workers, aged-care staff, school principals and environmental organisations.
And this seems to work well in general, except it doesn’t account for societal changes – consider how one might feel about Tobacco or Gambling or Alcohol lobby groups.
Up until 1987, it was standard practise to book a smoking or non-smoking seat on a plane, and gambling as a leisure activity is something many of us do from time to time without really thinking about it – Melbourne Cup for example.
Pharmaceuticals – lobby groups working hard for individuals who live with various conditions who fight to get a medication listed on the PBS. A recent announcement was that a prostate cancer therapy will be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). This came because of the medical and men’s interest groups lobbying for more accessible solutions to combat what can be a deadly disease.
Aged Care – families and those working within the aged care sector lobbying for change in funding and administration to better services can be delivered.
Gambling – lobby groups hiring former politicians and or public servants despite the Code of Conduct that stipulates time frames before people can be hired. This is bad because former politicians can wield power that the average citizen cannot simply by their former positions. There may be a perception of implied credibility.
Alcohol, junk food and gambling – Just like tobacco lobbyists despite the evidence showing a detrimental affect on individuals and communities, profit-driven industries such as alcohol, junk food and gambling seek to deter, delay and water down effective public health policies that could restrict the availability of their harmful products.
Why is this important to know?
Whilst lobbying is perfectly legal and a legitimate democratic activity, it can lead to perceptions of corruption. Corruption leads to an erosion of public confidence – bringing a lack of trust which compromises the willingness of citizens and business to respond to public policies.
Are you aware that procurement and project professionals, if they have worked in the public sector, are restricted from carrying out ‘related lobbying activity’ for a ‘third party client’ for a specified period? This period can vary state to state, noting that the interpretation of ‘official dealings’ can be broad in nature.
Management of undue influence from lobbyists.
Document, document, document! Declare, declare, and declare!
It is no more difficult than that.
NOTE: The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter, and specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. The content must not be relied upon as legal, technical, financial or other professional advice.
1Source Oxford Languages dictionary