NSW Council for Civil Liberties welcomes the introduction today of the #CleanUpPoliticsAct

NSW Council for Civil Liberties welcomes the introduction today of the Clean Up Politics Act to improve the transparency and honesty in dealings between lobbyists and Government representatives.

The Clean Up Politics Act has been driven by the hard work and determination of Independent Member for Kooyong, Dr Monique Ryan. The Council thanks and acknowledges Dr Ryan’s consistent advocacy in this space.

Comments from Lydia Shelly, President, NSW Council for Civil Liberties

We commend Dr Ryan for her work to improve transparency, integrity and honesty in dealings between lobbyists and Government representatives.

Lobbying is a necessary and important part of democracy. It allows concerned citizens and special interest groups to raise important issues with their democratically elected political representatives and to shape public policy. however, the current regulations and laws surrounding lobbyists is ripe for abuse. Robust lobbying regulation is an essential measure to ensure transparency, accountability, and the integrity of the political process.

Current Lobbying regulation in Australia is scant and woefully inadequate compared to other democratic countries. It overwhelmingly relies on secrecy, which cultivates the risk of corruption and misconduct. Right now, in Australia we rely on a public lobbyist register and a code of conduct. It is akin to “foxes guarding the hen house”. We can and must do better.

This Bill will regulate lobbying and increase transparency over who lobbyists are and who they are lobbying. The Bill will restrict lobbying, and inappropriate work practises, by former Government representatives after they cease to hold office. There should not be an open-door policy for ex politicians and ex political staffers to get in the ear of their mates to benefit big business. The Clean Up Politics Act slams that door shut.

Trust in government and in our political institutions is essential to maintain a healthy democracy. Our community is understandably sceptical about the motivations of many of our leaders. Having clear and transparent boundaries and rules about the contact, conduct and the relationship between lobbyists and politicians will help to strengthen our political system and rebuild public trust.

We know that Fossil fuel industry lobbyists have included former Liberal Party, National Party and ALP ministers. We know that lobbying by the fossil fuel industry to hinder effective climate action has been successful in slowing down Australia’s response to the Climate Crisis. Recent history shows us that relentless lobbying knocked out Australia’s chance to have an effective emissions trading scheme, a mining tax and price on carbon.

These wins for big business and the fossil fuel industry come at an enormous cost for the current Australian public and future generations of Australians. This is largely attributable to the shortcomings of federal lobbying regulation. 

The fossil fuel industry lobbyists is only one example. The current Lobbyist regulations encourage the “dirtiest” companies to spend the most on lobbying, which creates a perfect breeding ground for public policy and laws to favour commercial gains for big business at the expense of what is in the Australia public’s best interests – which can result in devastating consequences for communities.

Safeguarding our democracy from the pressures of big money and big influence will improve the functioning of government and ensure that political outcomes are in the public’s best interests. The Australian public deserve those who they have elected to serve their interests – and their interests alone.

Australians are at risk of further losing faith and trust in our civil institutions, our political institutions and our elected politicians if Governments do not embrace transparency and accountability advocated in this Bill.

We invite those who were elected by the people, to pass the bill and reaffirm their commitment that they only serve the interests of the people – and not powerful and wealthy lobbyists.

We are watching this Bill very closely and those who support this Bill and those who find reasons to reject the pathway towards ensuring transparency and accountability, as are the Australian public.

We have no doubt that the Australian public will ask themselves: “What do those who do not support this Bill have to gain?”