Reference to the Finance and Public Administration References Committee, Thursday 24 November 2011
Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (12:03): I move:
The Senate notes that:
the Lobbying Code of Conduct (the Code) has been in operation since 1 July 2008; and
the Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration recommended in September 2008 that it conduct an inquiry into the operation of the Code in the second half of 2009.
The following matter be referred to the Finance and Public Administration References Committee for inquiry and report by 1 March 2012:
The operation of the Lobbying Code of Conduct and the Lobbyist Register.
The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for two minutes.
Senator LUDWIG: If I could inform the Senate, an inquiry was conducted in 2008 and a separate roundtable process was started in 2010, with a discussion paper being released publicly later that year. That process was a comprehensive examination. The minister adopted changes to the code in 2011 based on the findings of this process, including the requirement for companies registering under the code to disclose former government representatives in their employment.
There is to date no evidence of any problems with the operation of the code. The code is aimed at regulating the behaviour of third-party lobbyists to ensure that members of the executive have a clear understanding of the interests being advocated to them. The lobbyist register allows ministers and their staff to know who is engaged in lobbying and whose interests are being promoted. There is no evidence of significant compliance issues arising from this process.
The extension of the code of conduct to all members and senators has several risks attached to it. The former Clerk of the Senate, Mr Harry Evans, pointed these out in a submission to a 2008 inquiry, and I would encourage the Senate to revisit that to inform themselves of it. It would require the House to regulate the private communications of members, something that may compromise the independence of private members. For those reasons, we do not support the motion.
Question agreed to.