Lobbyists have long been influential in government, and their purchase of influence in America is very well-known, especially in the tobacco, agricultural and oil industries. However, the lobby movement in Australia is less well-known, with our laws in regard to regulating lobbyists and money exchanging hands between politics and corporate giants being loose at best. Lobbyists in Australia have open access to Parliament House and are influential in steering the directions of advisors and decision-makers.

Pay to play in policy outcomes

Josh Szeps and Alice Dury on ABC Radio National discuss the poorly-regulated Lobbyist presence within the Australian Government, and how they literally can do what they want to get what they want.

Top takeaways from the podcast:

  • Corporate giants are the biggest donators to political parties, and there is no cap on how much they can give.
  • These corporate titans are from industries which include: property developers, banks, media, gambling, pharmaceutical, fossil fuels industry, etc.
  • The donated money can be used for part-purposes such as election campaigns, or to 'access and influence' the decision makers.
  • They develop client relationships between the donor and the politician, which is crucial in maintaining an influential ongoing presence.
  • They flood the halls of Canberra, and are ever-present to influence a willing ear.
ABC Radio National

The $Billions spent by corporate lobbyists in America serve the powerful - not the people

Lack of Transparency

"There’s only so much information available on Australia’s largely opaque lobbying system. There's quite a lot the lobbyist register doesn’t tell us. It doesn’t tell us precisely which lobbyist is lobbying who. We don’t know what clients are lobbying about, or when they may have be actively meeting with ministers. We are also blind to the actions of in-house lobbyists or peak interest groups".

The Conversation - Lobbying 101

Do not underestimate the power of lobbyists in Australia. Their influence shapes our country's industry trends, growth, legislation, policy, trade, foreign interests in Australia, immigration, education, agriculture, and workplace relations. They even determine what you do and do not have access to, and what you will pay for it. However, even with all of this power, access and influence, they remain covert, away from the public eye. For a peek into some of the most powerful lobbyists in Australia and their political connections, read this linked article by ABC News.

It is in the public's interests to know what lobbyists are influencing, and what deals are made that affect our everyday lives. If $money was taken out of the equation, we might have a government who acts in the best interests of the people, rather than wheeling and dealing for power and privilege behind closed doors.

Source: The Grattan Institute

Who are these walking, open-cheque books in Canberra?

Have you ever wondered what happened to retired politicians, besides retiring with unwarranted perks and a exorbitant pension? Often they receive jobs from the OLD BOYS CLUB as CEO or Board members, as seen with former federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg who is now Senior Regional Advisor for Goldman Sachs. How is that ethical, even with a confidentiality clause? How can a Federal Treasurer go directly into a position with a large global financial firm, as surely this is a conflict of interest. He is not alone in doing so either.

You may not know it, but many of these retired politicians end up working for Lobbying organisations as Consultants or Advisers, utilising their political and policy knowledge and networking clout to secure 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' types of 'opportunities' for their corporate titan clients.

In an analysis carried out by The Guardian, they found that:

One in four lobbyists have worked as staffers (policy advisers, chiefs of staff, or electorate or media officers) to Australian politicians.

The analysis, believed to be the first of its kind, revealed that 52.8% have a previous history within government or political party hierarchies.

Within their research in a separate article, they also found that the Lobbyist Register hides the links that many lobbyists have to government. Why the lack of transparency? I think we know why.

The Guardian

The Grattan Institute released a report in 2018 on the lack of transparency, the influence of Lobbyist groups and recommendations on how to reign in this runaway train of nondisclosed political favours.

"Federal ministerial standards state that ministers should act with integrity, fairness, responsibility, accountability and (always) in the public interest. Yet when apparent favours for friends, misuse of entitlements, acceptance of expensive gifts and cashed-up post-politics advisory jobs go unchecked – often without even an independent investigation – it demonstrates that accountability is lacking, and raises real concerns about integrity".

The Grattan Institute

Hacking of Democracy - Just name the $Price

Source. The Grattan Institute

Australian Citizens have long suspected that the Government is no longer serving them. It has been apparent for the last few decades that the government do not listen to the people, nor do they have the people's interests at the forefront of policy or legislation. The money machine and wheel-and-deal activities between big-corp and government has taken over, ensuring they shape and own political direction. The people are thrown breadcrumbs, and are expected to accept what they get and be happy about it without public scrutiny.

"The job of government is to represent – to seek out a wide range of views and, with them in mind, adjudicate the public interest.

Those who come knocking are not representative (of the people). Those who make it easy on politicians do so because it is in their interests".

"...well-resourced groups, particularly big business and unions, use money, resources and relationships to influence policy to serve their interests. Sometimes this is at the expense of the public interest, and even if it’s only sometimes, this is not the fair go – nor the democracy – Australians expect."

The Grattan Institute
Source. Canstock

Lobbyists and those they represent have bought out governments globally, not just with the $$ and influence they exert, but also through posturing their clients as indispensable administers of government policy and project implementation via privatisation. Their clients have been handed roles of social engineers and thought leaders (education, media, social media, think tanks, social services) and providers of public services (i.e., medical, national parks, health and transport). These deals are often referred to as Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), and they implement what used to be under government governance, but now under private corporation control, without responsibility to the people or public scrutiny.

At the tip of the iceberg, The World Bank (private entity) endorses the use of PPPs in taking the 'burden' off governments, as the PPPs are investment opportunities which benefit investors, economic growth and, of course, the World Bank. Is it any wonder that Lobbyists for private entities have so much influence and power, when the World Bank authoritatively steers the PPP model onto aligned countries? Rather than empower governments, PPPs empower private corporations to take control over more and more of the public's essential needs - rendering government as a toothless tiger, powerless to protect the public's interests. I digress, but it is imperative to acknowledge the big picture players and underlying ramifications.

Keep very still Sir, I almost got him, just one more pull and I'll have that lobbyist out in a jiffy

The true nature - $$$ Talks

An article by The Grattan Institute states, "A 2018 study led by Griffith University and Transparency International Australia found that 85 per cent of Australians think at least ‘some’ federal politicians are corrupt, while 56 per cent had ‘personally witnessed or suspected’ public officials of making decisions that favoured a business or individual who gave them political donations or support. More shockingly, perhaps, the number was higher among those who had worked in government (61 per cent), and higher again among those who had worked in federal government (67 per cent)."

"...The expectation that governments can control events, or at least protect the community from them. But because our leaders seem as powerless to control private sector institutions as we are, we are constantly reminded of their impotence..." Laura Tingle

"Australians have become increasingly disillusioned with their political class....Growing suspicions that people in government serve themselves and their mates rather than the public interest are vented daily. They are also evident in surveys and voting behaviour: more than four-fifths of Australians think at least ‘some’ federal politicians are corrupt.

Almost three quarters of Australians are particularly suspicious that ‘people in government look after themselves’, and that ‘government is run for a few big interests"

"...Lobbyists have the ear of influential politicians...but consumer and community voices are often not in the room at all. This impoverishes debate, undermines the necessary democratic clash of ideas and can lead to policy that serves the few rather than the many"

The Grattan Institute - continue reading this article here
Source: Grattan Institute

Sadly, that is the overall theme. You, the people, are just TOLD what to do like 2 year-old children, while these representative Lobbyists and career politicians play the exchange game for power and greed without question.

Government and media figureheads use the term 'Conspiracy theory' to divert attention and discredit others, yet the vast amounts of money exchanged for influence is in itself a conspiracy.

Conspiring to influence and sway legislation and sign-offs on partnerships to benefit the corporations and peak body groups via big lobbying (although there are advocates and lobbyists who work tirelessly for positive change), the infiltratory profiteering deals, that are of little benefit or cause negative impact to the general public, are a conspiracy against the Australian people's interests.

Written in and for the Public's Interest

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