20. Oct, 2017

Lobbyists

I have touched on this issue several times during the last 18 months. However I have been researching and building this topic for almost that amount of time also. Lobbyists have been around for a long time and can generally be seen in their $2-3000 suits swanning around the halls and offices of Parliament house. There is even a register for them… and registered parking spaces. They have the best seats at the best restaurants…stay in really swank hotels. My understanding is that the average daily expense account for a lobbyists is approx. $2-2500…of course that doesn’t include a wage or bonus and so on. Again I understand that an average Lobbyist from the Iron Ore industry is paid approximately $600 an hour as a consultant. That could account for $3-5000 a day, Based on an average sitting year of 70 day and a balance of an average working year being 200 days, they could be paid as much as $600000-$1m on top of the other benefits. On the contrary a waged group based consultant such as one from ACOSS gets approximately $96000 per annum.

Best described as a wolf in sheep’s clothing…There are hundreds of Lobbyists in Canberra and some even work at a state level although there are also hundreds at that level also. They work mainly in areas of large business and contracts. Areas include, Unions, Guns, Coal, Iron ore, Oil and Gas, Transport, Power, Education, Health, Tourism, Defence (especially contracts), Water, Agriculture, Human Rights, Immigration, Banking and Insurance, Pharmacy, Smoking. These can be broken down into sub sets also, an example of this is agricultural trade. There are several definitions or meanings but I believe this one brings it together: … is a form of advocacy with the intention of influencing decisions made by the government by individuals or more usually by lobby groups; it includes all attempts to influence legislators and officials, whether by other legislators, constituents, or organized groups.

Let’s look at an example of a consultant lobbyist working for coal. Coal has several of these lobbyists arguing along several specialty points: Economics, Unions & Jobs, Power costs, Science, Power suppliers, Power resellers. They will generally share the research they have which comes via the Coal companies. During the 1990 lobbyists acting as advisors spoke with both Federal and State legislators regarding deregulation of the power industry. Their presentations to cabinets, ministers and executive showed that there would be competition, more jobs and the ability to make power cleaner and cheaper. Especially given the development of solar energy …after all how was Government going to pay for this massive spending investment. The power groups were working on a rebate system that over all would save Government $100’s of million to spend more wisely on things like hospitals and transport. In fact the model was costed and implemented at a price twice as high as it should have been. This has in fact cost State government $B’s that could have been put into those hospitals and transport infrastructure.

Very few are actually privileged to the snake in the long grass, back handed, door closing deceit of this process. It’s a bit like three dimensional chequers… you have to look up, look down, look left, look right look ahead and back all at the same time. We all know the outcome of the 1990’s power lobbying. Power has increased exponentially nearly 3 times faster than inflation. You can read my topic on this from earlier in the year.

So what good for the public and the general tax payers is achieved by lobbyists? In more than 95% of matters nothing… in fact the usual case is that the public end up on the loss end of the equation. In my humble opinion lobbying is nearly as bad as the 2 party system…it uses that very system at its discretion and sometimes it even shapes election outcomes.

Here are just 5 more chronic disasters in my region caused by lobbyists; Water desalination, Light rail, M1 not upgraded, Train link to the GC airport & GC airport itself, daylight saving.

Like donations, lobbyists need to be banned. The simple reason for this is beneficial interest.