Understanding The Tricky Business of Lobbying

Lobbying is a tricky business. At its heart is the need for a process to occur in the most transparent way possible…

Here I am discussing a key decision with the Acting Director General DWER at the recent CEOs and Government Department Heads Breakfast – Image courtesy of WALGA

In Korean dramas we usually see lobbying go on behind close doors, usually at a secluded restaurant. During the meeting, briefcases or empty boxes of fruit or fruit drinks are packed with money and distributed to each of the attendees cars, with the amount given dependent on rank.

Of course, in reality, lobbying is a professional and legitimate business that, when it enters the public arena, must meet certain standards, guidelines, a code of conduct or even legislation.

Each country has its own method to deal with lobbying. However, in general, the principles applied are the same. For example, under the Australian Code of Lobbying, two clear points are made:

  1. Lobbying is a legitimate activity and an important part of the democratic process. Lobbyists can help individuals and organisations communicate their views on matters of public interest to the Government and, in doing so, improve outcomes for the individual and the community as a whole.
  2. In performing this role, there is a public expectation that lobbying activities will be carried out ethically and transparently, and that Government representatives who are approached by lobbyists can establish whose interests they represent so that informed judgments can be made about the outcome they are seeking to achieve.

In hand with this understanding is a number of key processes that must be followed. Firstly, as a lobbyist, you must be registered with the appropriate authority. Secondly, you mustn’t be corrupt or involved in corrupt or illegal matters. Thirdly, you must be truthful. Finally, you must know your subject. In otherwords: You must be accurate with the information you provide. Know your facts!

Opening night at Local Government Week 2022 – Shire President, Cr Bantock, Deputy Shire President, Cr Clarke and Mrs Clarke, Linda and myself. Image courtesy of WALGA

In terms of what I do, I both lobby and in turn, I am the subject of lobbying

The Lobbyist

My role as a lobbyist is to meet with government department heads, government ministers and other public officers to discuss matters of common interest, matters of government policy or draft legislation and also funding opportunities.

Of course, my role is different to that of a normal lobbyist. As a local government CEO, I do not have to be registered, as I am already operating in the public arena. However, I must be truthful in whatever I do, and I always need to make sure I know exactly what I’m talking about.

The recent local government convention is the perfect place for lobbying to occur in an open and transparent way. It brings together key figures and in formats where transactions are public and also recorded.

On the receiving end

In turn, I’m constantly lobbied re decisions my staff or I have made or are likely to make, along with those of the local government council itself.

When faced with the above situation, I make it very clear to those who seek to lobby me where the boundary is. The concept here is one of where I must be neutral. I cannot take sides, because I must at all times make even handed decisions or provide balanced advice. I cannot favour one position or party over another. The advice I provide must be based on the merits of the situation.

Gifts must be declared publicly – the value and who it is from. Failing to declare who the gift is from is the issue, not the value of the gift received

Then, there is the matter of gifts.

Gifts are allowed regarding what I do. Anything over $300 is considered a gift and must be declared and registered. There is no upper limit.

However, in the situation where a company or other body that has previously provided me a gift and requires a strategic decision from council, I must seek permission to provide said advice regarding that company.

The advice in the first instance is by way of an agenda item (a report that is voted on by the council). I can then give further verbal or written advice, if it is needed. This means the advice is on the public record because it will then be recorded in the minutes of the council meeting and/or via video recordings/live streaming and also listed in the publicly available gift register.

If the gift received is between $300 – $1,000, council can make the decision itself re whether I provide it with advice or not. This decision must be recorded in the minutes of a council meeting. If the gift is over $1,000, then I must seek permission from the Minister for Local Government in order to provide advice. Now imagine that scenario happening in a Kdrama or a Hollywood blockbuster!

Breakfast with Justin Langer – Image courtesy of WALGA

The bottom line – integrity matters!!!

18 Comments on “Understanding The Tricky Business of Lobbying”

  1. Now, if you can get US lobbyists to follow these guidelines, we might be able to clean up some of “the swamp” in D.C. Even in my wife’s business classes at our state’s flagship university, integrity seems to be a leftover from a previous generation, and not valued by the students. Recently, a conservative speaker had to escorted from Yale Law School for her safety after being booed and shouted off the stage, and this from our future lawyers and judges! So sad.
    Thanx for a perceptive piece on lobbying.
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It saddens me to hear this, CA. Keeping an open mind is the cornerstone to integrity, to have a balanced point of view, to understand what is happening around you.

      The behaviour you describe is still not, in the main, tolerated here. This is very different to a crowd that might voice its opinion on a particular course of action taken, or to be taken. God knows, I’ve certainly faced the angry hordes in this situation, but you need to understand how to “work a crowd,” as it were.

      Freedom of speech is a good thing, but not puerile and bad, threatening, behaviour.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your lovely comments, Rita. L doesn’t always like being in the public eye, but she is a real trooper and extremely supportive 😊

      If you haven’t taken a peek at “One Dollar Lawyer,” please do. It is funny, poignant, romantic and of course, deals with carloads of ill-gotten gains 😉

      Like

  2. Thanks for the info, Sean. Didn’t know the intricacies until now. I honestly feel lobbying done right can make a difference, especially in countries like The Ph, but the done right part is otherwordly to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had written a reply some time ago, which disappeared due to a technical glitch, so here I am for round 2 😊 From what I can see Ph had lobbying legislation in place, but it never worked, so it’s now open slather and the powers that be are reluctant to implement a new lobbying system, despite substantial calls for it to happen. Maybe one day…

      Like

  3. Haha, you remind me of South Korean politics, which have so much dramas and quite often bloody as well. I heard of the term lobby and lobbyist very often in TV shows and political dramas…

    Liked by 1 person

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