Lobbying activities – people and organisations acting on someone else’s behalf – include:
- Trying to influence government decision-making
- Trying to make or amend legislation, policies or programs
- Trying to influence the awarding of government contacts
- Attempting to secure government funding
Lobbyists come in all forms – CHOICE itself is technically a lobbyist, as we advocate on behalf of consumers. And while some do it in a non-profit capacity, as we do, lobbying can be big business, with entire firms and in-house lobbyists employed to attempt to influence those in power.
“Lobbying is a huge industry – there is serious money being spent,” says Warhurst. “One assumes the people who are spending these vast sums are getting value for money.” While employing a lobbyist doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome - particularly as lobbyists can be employed by both sides of a political tug-of-war - it may tip the scales.
“It’s a bit like if your lawyer is better than mine, they might win the case for you. We’re not all equal, and people who have the high-powered lobbyists on their side have a big advantage,” says Warhurst. “It’s not necessarily sinister, though – lobbyists might be used to inform the government of a bid, put together a fancy submission, gain access and play the game. They work out who is making the decision, and who has to be convinced. Their work may involve using pressure to, for example, get a majority in cabinet in favour of building something in SA rather than NSW, but it’s not corrupt in most instances.”