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 into 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.

Parker, with the brilliant personal track record in politics of helping John Hewson lose an unlosable election and then helping Jeff Kennett do the same in Victoria (see clarification below), was prompted to defend lobbying as “a vital part of any democracy” following the odium attached to the word by the exposure of the Brian Burke style of operation.

He supports calls for registration of lobbyists and wrote that:

…this week I have spoken to a wide range of industry colleagues and the consensus is that we do need to act to formally register the professionals and their clients and ensure our own high individual standards and codes of ethics are more uniformly shared among the wider industry. This will help us promote the serious, credible operators and weed out the unsavoury minority.

While registration that the Labor Party is calling for does not frighten Parker, he is clearly disturbed at suggestions made by me, among others, that there should be a disclosure of what companies pay their lobbyists to perform their tasks. He writes:

At the same time, the loopier claims and demands from anti-business crusaders dressed up as journalists need their own scrutiny. Suggestions of corruption across the industry are deeply insulting and without evidence. Calls for complete financial disclosure are not only unprecedented for other professional service sectors but are designed to simply give these crusaders the ability to misrepresent and deceive.

Or, depending on your point of view, the ability to expose and inform.

The lobbying debate will surely be an interesting one.

 


Andrew Parker, managing partner of Parker & Partners Public Affairs, writes: I hope Richard Farmer isn’t put in charge of the new lobbying registry he pines for because accuracy might be its first casualty. I worked for John Hewson after the 1993 election and worked for the NSW Government, not Jeff Kennett some 1000km away. I’m for transparency and promoting professionalism but let’s have some commonsense and accuracy injected into this debate rather than more Brian Burke hysteria.

Peter Fray

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