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Coalition/Labor vote down Senate plan to sandbag against lobbyist scandals

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 18 Mar 2014

With leading Coalition and Labor figures caught up in lobbying scandals the major parties combined forces in the Senate to vote down a motion backing greater regulation of lobbying activities in the federal parliament, Greens democracy spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said today.

"It is extraordinary that when given the opportunity to vote for a much needed clean-up of lobbyist activities that would provide greater transparency for the public, Labor and the Coalition choose to vote together to maintain the current feeble oversight system," Senator Rhiannon said.

"The existing Lobbying Code of Conduct captures little of the lobbying activity that occurs behind closed doors.

"The vote on the Senate motion puts the spotlight on the unwillingness of the major parties to clean up a system that leaves the door open to corrupt activities.

"The federal code limited to third party lobbyists lags well behind regulatory schemes in the US and Canada.

“The motion the Coalition and Labor voted against called for an Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, a new definition of lobbying to include all MPs and Senators, including cross benchers and opposition MPs and for a ban on the payment of success fees to lobbyists.

“No major party Senator spoke against the motion to explain why they are opposed to these changes.

“The motion also called for the scope of lobbying to include corporations and organisations employing in-house lobbyists. 

"News about lobbyists using underhand tactics is becoming a regular reminder of why reform is needed. 

“The decision of the Coalition and Labor to vote together sets back moves to raise the standard on lobbyists' behaviour and achieving better outcomes for the public.

"Lobbyists work to influence the decisions of parliament for the group or business that pays them. There is nothing wrong with this but the public has a right to know what they do. 

"Lobbyists can change government decisions. How they use their power needs to be opened up to scrutiny.

“Labor has a track record of opposing reform to tighten up lobbyist activities. In 2012 they opposed a Senate Inquiry to review the federal Lobbying Code of Conduct. The Greens initiated Inquiry was set up with the support of the Coalition," Ms Rhiannon said.

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