The Australian Greens will push for lobbyist reform to close the loophole which has allowed minor party preference consultant Glenn Druery to remain off the Register of Lobbyists because his firm says it does not lobby government representatives, only non-government politicians.
Greens Senator and democracy spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said, “When Parliament resumes I will work to amend 3.4 and 3.5 of the Lobbying Code of Conduct to include non-government MPs, including cross benchers and opposition MPs as they are often key decision makers in parliament and need to be part of the reporting requirements.
“With minor party Senators in the key balance of power position there is an urgent need for transparency of their interest with lobbyists.
”The footprint that lobbyists leave should be clear for all to see, so that the public feel more confident in how the democratic process operates, how decisions are made, who is attempting to influence decision makers and how they are handling that.
“In 2012 a Senate inquiry into the federal regulation of lobbyists failed to make any recommendations for reform, despite clear evidence that Australia lags behind countries like Canada and the US and widespread calls for the regulation of in-house lobbyists and the lobbying of all MPs
“The Greens once again call for an Office of the Commission of Lobbying, which would be an independent body that would report directly to the federal parliament. It would have auditing and investigative powers and a mandate to enforce a new lobbying act and a lobbyist code of conduct.
“This Office would bring Australia into line with the higher standards that lobbyists in Canada and the US have to operate under.
“Labor and the Coalition have shown a reluctance to strengthen the rules under which lobbyists operate in the federal parliament, and now we are in a situation where Mr Druery, a lobbyist and strategist, is able to lobby crucial crossbench Senators without adequate disclosure and transparency.
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Summary of Greens recommendations
1. Establish an Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying
The Australian Greens believe oversight of lobbying should rest with an independent body similar to the Canadian Commissioner of Lobbying. This independent body would report direct to federal parliament and have auditing and investigative powers and a mandate to enforce a new Lobbying Act and Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct.
2. Provide a legislative framework
The Australian Greens support a legislative framework for the regulation of lobbying.
3. Expand who is the subject of lobbying
The Australian Greens believe there is a strong case for expanding the target of lobbying from government ministers to include all MPs and Senators, including cross benchers and opposition MPs, as occurs in the US and Canada.
4. Widen who is defined as a lobbyist
Expand the scope of lobbying to include corporations and organisations employing in-house lobbyists, many of whom are in a position to influence government policy.
5. Strengthen disclosure requirements
The Australian Greens believe the scheme should require the disclosure, in a timely manner, of when the lobbying occurred, who stood to benefit, who was lobbied, the subject matter of the lobbying and the meeting outcome.
6. Enhance compliance and review
The Australian Greens support: the proposed Commissioner for Lobbying receiving and investigating complaints; strengthened and meaningful sanctions applying to MPs, public servants and lobbyists and proper appeal rights.
7. Strengthen post separation employment provisions
The Australian Greens believe there should be a five year ban on ex-ministers working as lobbyists.
8. Ban success fees
The Australian Greens support a ban on the payment of success fees to lobbyists.