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News and Views About Lobbying

Begging for cash

Wednesday, 6 August 2008 - It is a strange thing to be sure when businessmen and politicians alike claim there is no connection at all between donations to a political party and future influence. And yet ... parties looking like sure losers find it very hard to raise money. The latest lot to find itself in this predicament is the Country Liberal Party of the Northern Territory which last week had to send out an emergency email to supporters requesting donations to cover campaign expenses. The CLP is being well and truly outspent on advertising by a Labor Party that is a clear favourite to be returned (an 85% chance on the Owl's Election Indicator) on Saturday and seems to be having no fund raising difficulty at all.

Dear oh dear! Tory tricksters?

Tuesday, 1 July 2008 - The team of Mark Textor and Lynton Crosby, fresh from a success with a London Lord Mayor, are off and running again with another election. The New Zealand papers have been fascinated by the appearance of the pair as campaign aides for National leader John Key although they were unsuccessful during their last foray across the Tasman when Helen Clark won a third term as Prime Minister back in 2005. more

Real girls eat meat

Monday, 30 June 2008 - First fur wearers, now meat eaters. The animal liberation movement marches on with its campaigns targeting the rich and famous.

Latest celebrity to incur the wrath of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is Jessica Simpson who dared to wear a T-shirt bearing the slogan "Real Girls Eat Meat". more

Lobbyist Con

Monday, 26 May 2008 - Concetto Antonio "Call me Con" Sciacca, a former Minister in the Keating Labor Government who lost a House of Representatives seat at the 2004 election, has joined the merry band of retired politicians in the lobbying business and has some prominent based companies as clients. The gradually expanding Federal Register of Lobbyists shows Sciaccas Lawyers and Consultants represents, among others, the Manildra Group, who have been major donors to the NSW Branch of the Labor Party and who have benefited by NSW Government decisions promoting the use of ethanol, and ABC Learning Centres Pty Ltd. more

Misusing by not using

Monday, 19 May 2008 - Giving members of parliament the right to say what they will within the confines of their parliamentary chambers, without fear of legal retribution, is an important component of our democratic system. This parliamentary privilege developed for just the kind of case which Greens Leader Bob Brown recently has spoken of - where a lobbyist offered him a bribe to vote in a particular fashion. more

First on the list

Thursday, 15 May 2008 - Longevity in the lobbying business is clearly no impediment to speed. Stephen Carney set up his shingle on 1 st February 1979 and has darted around the corridors of power for four years of Malcolm Fraser, 13 years of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, 12 with John Howard and how the first six months of Kevin Rudd.

First on the list

And now he is the first (and sofar the only) member of his trade to register under the rules of the Lobbyist Register and Code of Conduct announced on Tuesday by Special Minister of State Senator John Faulkner. more

Avoiding the register

Thursday, 3 April 2008 - Legal and accounting firms - and, if Price Waterhouse Coopers is any guide, these days they often seem to be the same thing - are about to be given the opportunity by the Labor Government of a nice little earn. The draft rules for the proposed register of lobbyists released yesterday by Special Minister of State John Faulkner, excludes "members of professions, such as doctors, lawyers or accountants, and other service providers, who make occasional representations to Government on behalf of others in a way that is incidental to the provision to them of their professional or other services" from having to register. Companies wishing to keep their attempts at influence away from the prying eyes of the public will now have good reason to hand the task to "members of professions" rather than those government relations firms which will have to disclose their client list for all to see.

An agent of influence

Wednesday, 19 March 2008 - The security forces welcomed in the Hawke Labor Government back in 1983 with the claim that the Soviet Union was trying to recruit the former Federal Secretary of the Party, David Combe, as an agent of influence - not exactly a spy but a man who could help the Soviet cause without realizing he was doing so. more

Testing the Australia - Japan Relationship

Thursday, February 07, 2008 - I wrote back in December how the Sydney Tele was following in the great tradition of yellow journalism with its Greenpeace inspired opposition to Japanese whaling. Well, the crusade continues with this picture of mother and daughter minke whales taking up all of today's page one:

... The Japanese, however, will be given a taste of another great tabloid tradition - the page three girl. The Tele and Greenpeace have chosen a 15 year old woman to travel to Japan to present a petition. more

Lobbyist Skye Bertoli

Endorsed by a National Institute

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - In the lobbying business, titles are a wonderful thing and the Wilderness Society well knows it.

In the battle over building that pulp mill in northern Tasmania, Gunns Limited had called on Allen Consulting to provide it with a third party endorsement saying what wonderful economic benefits would come to the state. There would be $3.3 billion added to the Tasmanian economy in the years to 2030 with creation of 1617 jobs.

How to trump that? Well, for a start instead of a group of former political staffers and senior public servants (Allen Consulting was founded by a former private secretary to failed Liberal Opposition Leader Billy Snedden), the Wilderness Society turned to a National Institute. The National Institute of Economic and Industry Research, no less.

That grand sounding body this week issued a report concluding that economic benefits of the pulp mill had been overstated and that the project most likely would have an overall negative economic impact.
To a casual reader that might seem a damning indictment of what the evil Gunns are planning but anyone who looked at the NIEIR website would find it is nothing more than just another of those lobbyists for hire disguised behind a title.

Both Allen Consulting and the Institute would no doubt loudly proclaim the independence of their assessments. Which means that Gunns and the Wilderness Society have paid their money and we can take our choice.

Ethanol Powers the Political Campaigns

Friday, February 01, 2008 - There was a time when the Australian Labor Party sent back a $50,000 cheque from the head of the Manildra Group of companies Dick Honan but times have apparently changed. The latest details of political donations on the Australian Electoral Commission website show that last financial year federal and state Labor received $348,300 from the flour miller and ethanol producer. more

Setting the Standards With a Little Help from Senator John

Tuesday, December 04, 2007 - John Howard made a big thing about improving ministerial responsibility, accountability and behaviour when he came into office back in 1996. He really was going to be the Honest John who demanded the very highest of standards and he proclaimed a Ministerial Code of Conduct to prove it. more

The Return of the aNiMaLS

Thursday, 21 June 2007 - The hypocrisy of politicians is wonderful to behold. There was Labor in the House of Representatives yesterday attacking the Liberal-National government for having employees of ministers monitor the media to find information with which to embarrass their opponents. The very same Labor Party which two decades ago, under the skilful direction of its amiable servant Colin Parks, turned such monitoring into an art form!

Col Parks - Labor's former king of propaganda

Back in those days the government's National Media Liason Service so infuriated the Coalition with its effectiveness that it promised to immediately dismantle the so-called aNiMaLS propaganda machine immediately on gaining office. more

Rules for Lobbyists: Never Write it Down

Thursday, 14 June 2007 - There has been a wonderful lesson for lobbyists in the events of this week. The sight of Prime Minister John Howard and his ministerial colleagues waving around the ACTU handbook for influencing public opinion made me wince. Such a document should never have existed. The best laid plans in the murky world of politics are never written down. more

The Delicate Art of Bluffing

Thursday, 7 June 2007 - That a lobbyist should hint at threats in private rather than make them directly in public is a lesson that Catholic Cardinal George Pell should learn from the overwhelming rejection of his bullying tactics by members of the NSW Legislative Assembly just after noon today when they overwhelmingly passed legislation to allow an expansion of stem cell research. The majority vote of 65 included many Catholic MPs, including the Premier Morris Iemma, who ignored the threat by the Cardinal that action would be taken against supporters. There were only 26 votes against the bill which mirrors laws passed earlier this year by the federal Parliamen allowing somatic cell nuclear transfer, in which an egg cell nucleus is removed and replaced with a donor nucleus, eventually forming an early embryo with DNA almost identical to the donor organism. more

Resisting the Big Noting Urge

The lobbying firm Hawker Britton is getting the kind of publicity a good lobbyist can do without during this Victorian election campaign and largely because it cannot resist an opportunity to tout its own wares. The Melbourne Herald Sun reported this morning that Hawker Britton claimed on its website to be working “in a senior strategic capacity” on the State Labor Party campaign although I could not find the reference when I looked. The paper asked Premier Steve Bracks if he was aware of the involvement which produced this comment: “"No, not that I'm aware of. We're standing on our own record of what we're doing."

That Mr Bracks wants to distance himself from Hawker Britton is understandable given the publicity surrounding the firm's senior partner, David White, who is a former State Labor Cabinet Minister and current president of the ALP agenda committee. Mr White has been working for Tattersalls which is trying to retain its share of the profitable duopoly which controls Victorian poker machines. The Herald Sun report said secret documents seen by the paper reveal how Mr White told Tattersall's chiefs the Bracks Government favoured a deal to extend its control of Victoria's $2.5 billion-a-year pokies industry with Mr White telling Tatts it would be given preferential treatment when tendering for new lucrative gaming licences. more

The Lobbyists Begin Lobbying

Friday, 9th March 2007 - There's nothing like restricting entry to a profession or trade to force the fee level up so it was no surprise this morning that Canberra 's lobbyists have begun lobbying for what they call professional registration to make entry in to their industry harder. Publicly fronting the call in an op-ed piece in The Australian is Andrew Parker, the managing partner of Parker & Partners Public Affairs which in turn is a subsidiary of the Australian division of Ogilvy PR Worldwide in which John Singleton's STW Group has a significant holding. more

Keeping Tabs on the Lobbyists

Wednesday, 15th November, 2006 - Liberals throughout Australia will be relishing the embarrassment of the Labor Party from the regular exposure of sleazy financial dealings of state government ministers with lobbyists, property developers and mining entrepreneurs. Shady deals keep popping up around the country but before they get too excited those Liberals should keep in mind that the report of the inquiry into AWB Limited is yet to come. There will be scope there for some questions about the relationship between Federal ministers and public servants and the shadowy world of corporate lobbyists. more

An Excellent Piece of Timing

The Phantom is popular at Slater & Gordon

Friday, 6th October, 2006 - Those scourges of private enterprise wrong doers Slater & Gordon have shown impeccable timing with their decision to seriously enter the Canberra legal market by taking over the town's leading trade union law firm Gary Robb and Associates. Work is just about to begin on a massive new defence building at Bungendore across the NSW border from Canberra and the Defence Department has allocated a construction site office to the Australian Building and Construction Commission. more

Putting the National Back in to the National Farmers Federation

Friday, 16th June, 2006 - Agri-businessman David Crombie took over this morning as chairman of the so-called National Farmers Federation and his major task will be to make the body national in fact as well as in name. more

Would You Put the Alcohol Industry in Charge of the Breath Tests?

Wednesday, 3rd May, 2006

In the United States last week the Journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine published a study putting sales by the alcohol industry to under age drinkers at $US22.5 billion a year. That figure - equal to 17.5% of total American alcohol sales - led the study to conclude that " the alcohol industry is not a good candidate to regulate its own marketing and sales practices."

About the same time in Australia the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Christopher Pyne, announced a $5 million grant of taxpayers money to encourage Australians to drink responsibly. The recipient of the grant was a group called DrinkWise Australia. more

£1 for Every Extra Vote

Thursday, 27th April, 2006 - Humiliated by their loss to Tony Blair's New Labour in 2001, the British Conservative Party turned in 2005 to the Australian Lynton Crosby to improve their fortunes. Fresh from successes at home for John Howard, Crosby signed on for a fee of £441,000 and £27,000 for accommodation – a total all up equivalent to $A1,123,270.


Greenpeace Targets Easter Eggs

Wednesday, 12th April, 2006 - Get yourself a newsworthy angle and away you go. Normally with Greenpeace it is a spectacular stunt but, being Easter, this time it's Easter eggs. Chocolate Easter eggs. Milk chocolate Easter eggs where the milk may have come from a cow that ate genetically modified grain. Shock! Horror! Protest to Cadbury's today. more

A Lively Political Issue

Tuesday, 5th April, 2006 - Animal liberation is becoming a lively political issue in the developed world with celebrities aplenty joining in the clamour for humans to treat animals in a kinder way. more

Old Habits Die Hard - Lobbying for Wheat Subsidy

Friday, 31st March, 2006 - Old habits die hard among farming industry leaders: talk about being a defender of free enterprise but at the first sign of trouble call on the Government for a subsidy. The National Farmers Federation president Peter Corish has been at his lobbying station in recent weeks talking up the need of a $1 billion guarantee to cover sales of this year's wheat harvest. Having reaped the benefit of paying bribes to Iraq to sell wheat, the farmers now want to pay no penalty for the failure to sell wheat caused by those very same bribes. more

A Lobbying Success on Mental Health

Friday, 31st March, 2006 - After more than a decade of neglect, mental health is beginning to enter the thoughts of politicians. Prime Minister and Premiers at the recent Council of Australian Governments meeting agreed that spending should be increased and now a bipartisan committee of Senators has called for a massive funding boost. more

Herbalists Seek Registration

Friday, 31st March, 2006 - There is no better way to get a wage rise than to limit competition for your job. Just ask the College of Surgeons. So no wonder that the National Herbalist Association is seeking the introduction of legislation to establish a central registration board to oversee herbalists and naturopaths. more

West Australia's Canberra Embassy

Sunday, 5th March, 2006 - The Government of West Australia is taking federal-state relations to a new level with the opening of a virtual WA Embassy in Canberra. The Department of Premier and Cabinet advertised on Saturday for "invitations to register interest" in becoming what it describes as "WA Intergovernmental Representatives". more

Child Support Changes Announced

Wednesday, 1st March, 2006 - The Lone Fathers Association's long lobbying campaign was rewarded as the Federal Government announced changes to aspects of the child support system.

A Better Looking Lobbyist

Friday, 17th February, 2006 - Pamela Anderson could be described as an up-front lobbyist. As the former Baywatch star travels around the world in her role as a celebrity promoter of assorted products, she finds journalists always willing to give a plug to her favourite cause - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. more

The Potential for Pressure Groups Changing Votes Over RU486

Sunday, 12th February, 2006 - Senators from major parties don't have to worry about ordinary voters. Above the line voting and official how to vote cards have seen to that. The only vote that matters for them is at the pre-selection. For minor party Senators it's pretty much the same with the exception that their party is only after minority support in the first place. That makes Senators a difficult group to frighten when it comes to a debate like that on RU486. How they vote on a controversial issue is not going to affect their chances of being re-elected provided they can keep that pre-selection.

Most members of the House of Representatives - those with a healthy majority - similarly do not have to feel personally threatened when the bullies come to lobby. MPs know they only have to really worry when they are around that three per cent margin mark. Then a single issue campaign just might make the difference between winning and losing, depending, of course, on how your party is doing overall. more

Carers Australia Seeks New Head

Saturday, 4th February, 2006 - Carers Australia, the national peak body representing the needs and interests of family carers, is seeking its second Chief Executive in less than a year. The organisation advertised this weekend to replace Dr Jennifer Bowers who only took up the job in February last year. See Carers Australia

Business Rivalries Disappear as Manufacturing Changes

Thursday, 19th January, 2006 - There was a time when the political interests of manufacturing and commerce were substantially different and the two sections of the business community had their separate industry organisations. Merchants and shopkeepers and others in the tertiary sector normally joined together under the banner of a Chamber of Commerce. Companies that made things formed in to Chambers of Manufactures. Rarely would the twain meet with that basic issue of protection being the great divide for much of the country's history. Chambers of Commerce were free traders looking for the abolition, or at least the lowering, of tariffs and other import restrictions. Chambers of Manufactures wanted governments to increase the protective barriers. more

In Florida There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Thursday, 22nd December, 2005 - The expression "there is no such thing as a free lunch" has been given a new meaning in Florida. From this week lobbyists are banned from plying lawmakers and officials with food, wine and gifts. more

Lobbyists and Lawyers Sure Winner in Betfair Race

Friday, 2nd December, 2005 - The votes in the Tasmanian Parliament licensing betting exchange Betfair to operate in Australia have not ended the race for dollars by the lobbyists and lawyers involved. Next stage in the process will be to overcome an obstruction thrown up by a State law which came into effect on 29 November that gives the Victorian Racing Minister the power ... more






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Federal Lobbyists Register

Limiting the conversation

Friday, 27 June 2008 - With the list of clients of the lobbying firm Government Relations Australia Advisory Pty Ltd (GRA) now on the Australian Government Lobbyists Register , it is clear that David Epstein, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's chief of staff, and his wife Sandra Eccles, who is GRA's Canberra manager, will not be able to talk much about politics at all if conflicts of interest are to be avoided. This client list covers a very diverse range of subject matter between them. more

A celebrity lobbyist on a lively political issue

A better looking lobbyist - PETA ambassador Pamela Anderson and friend.

© Richard Farmer 2008