Shadow
special minister of state Alan Griffin MP has said the nature of lobbying in Australia needs to be more clearly
understood.

Launching
the new book Lobbying in Australia by Julian Fitzgerald, Griffin said “There is almost a mystique
around the role and activities of lobbyists. Often this suits the lobbyist – if
knowledge is power and access is essential, then the capacity to provide both
is a marketable commodity.”

“Given the
central nature of lobby groups and lobbyists to our modern political system,”
he argued, “it is clear that a better understanding is required. Light needs to
be shone on areas like this to ensure greater transparency in our democracy.”

Griffin points to the massive expenditure
on lobbying in the United States and the growth of the industry here
– and its implications for the amendments to the electoral laws currently under
debate that will increase the disclosure thresholds for political donations to
above $10,000.

“In terms
of transparency this is of real concern,” Griffin says. “Disclosure thresholds apply
separately to each registered political party. In the context where the
national, state and territory branches of the major political parties are each
treated as a registered political party, this means that a major party
constituted by the nine branches has the cumulative benefit of nine thresholds.

“The
increase to over $10,000 will mean that a donor can give a total of up to
$90,000 to the ALP, $80,000 to the Liberal party and $70,000 to the National
Party by simply donating $10,000 to each of the separate branches of either
political party.

“The
implications for our political system of even more crucial information being
hidden from public scrutiny are not at all positive.”

Peter Fray

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