In another damning report, the Australian National Audit Office has found that the government does not adequately assess conflict of interests risks or monitor compliance with the Lobbying Code of Conduct.
Greens Senate Leader and Democracy spokesperson, Larissa Waters, said the community was fed up with conflict-of-interest scandals and the revolving door between politicians and lobbyists, including mining and gambling interests. Grattan Institute research shows that many lobbyists previously held Ministerial or Departmental roles, and their connections made it easier for them to secure meetings with government.
“The lack of transparency about who is meeting with Ministers is staggering. The Australian public needs to know who is influencing the decisions that government makes.”
“The ANAO has previously advised the government that it needs to strengthen oversight of lobbyists, but today’s report confirms the government has ignored that warning.”
Senator Waters said stronger, enforceable standards were essential to protect against the culture of cosiness that allows dirty industries to get favourable policy outcomes.
“Last week, we learned that Senator Colbeck met with alcohol lobbyists, and then postponed action on warning labels. This was just the most recent example – the influence peddled by industry lobbyists is rife and it undermines democracy.”
The Greens support calls by the ANAO for the government to review the regulatory regime to ensure contact between lobbyists and Government representatives is conducted with transparency, integrity and honesty. The Greens have also called for a range of tougher measures, including:
- Establishing a legislative regime to regulate all lobbyists
- Extending the cooling off period for post-Ministerial lobbying to 5 years, and impose a cooling off period for all politicians and senior staff
- Extending the application of the Code to include in-house lobbyists and orange-pass holders
- Publish details of all meetings between Ministers and for-profit lobbyists
- Establish a Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to oversee and enforce Ministerial Standards and Codes of Conduct
- Introduce effective sanctions for non-compliance with the Code of Conduct, including reduced access to Parliament House, losing parliamentary pension entitlements, or restricted eligibility for government tenders
“The Australian people have had enough of the faceless men and industry donors writing policy. They want their democracy back.”
“The Greens will keep pushing for tougher regulation of lobbyists, a ban on dirty donations and an independent federal corruption watchdog with teeth.”
The report is available on the ANAO website: https://www.anao.gov.au/work/performance-audit/management-the-australian-government-lobbying-code-conduct-follow-up-audit