At the very moment he’s milking the Brian Burke affair for every news bite he can generate, the Prime Minister says there is no need for a register or code of conduct of lobbyists. “In the end it’s a matter of judgement and it’s a matter of personal responsibility”, John Howard said yesterday.
I’m not a great believer in substituting rules and regulations and registers for personal responsibility. It is all a matter of judgement.
Most of the world’s major democracies closely regulate and scrutinise the activities of lobbyists – for obvious reasons. But in the country where the public face of lobbying is characterised by spivs, Panama hats, secretive dinners and furtive mobile phone calls to government ministers to discuss the decision of the latest cabinet meeting, the PM wants to leave the probity of lobbying to the “judgement” of politicians and lobbyists.
Why, you might wonder, is the Prime Minister so quick to dismiss the need to introduce basic accountability to the murky $1 billion a year lobbying industry?
Could it have anything to do with his own allegiance to his private lobbying/polling outfit? Could it have anything to do with the firm which provides him with the crucial market intelligence he uses to ensure he remains such a “clever politician”? Could it have anything to do with two words he doesn’t want to hear mentioned in the debate about the role and integrity of lobbyists? Could it have anything to do with Crosby Textor?