Clubs Australia President Peter Newell chose the National Press Club today to launch a campaign that will be hard to beat for the new Crikey Audacious Lobbyist of the Year Award. In fact it was the sheer, bold faced hypocrisy of the club industry claiming to actually be concerned with problem gambling that inspired us create this prestigious title in the first place.

First a little of the flavour of Mr Newell’s outrageous presentation and then onto some details of the Crikey contest itself.

How Joe Hildebrand previewed the story in this morning’s Daily Telegraph with his straight face on I know not but this is what he reported under the headline “Dob in a gambler with new betting black ban“:

Family members of gambling addicts will be able to step in and have their loved ones banned from gaming outlets, forced to attend counselling and even have their wages redirected under a radical plan unveiled today.

The Clubs Australia proposal has been put to the Federal Government and could prompt hundreds of interventions to take place in NSW alone.

It would force clubs and gambling agencies such as Centrebet or the TAB to black ban someone or require them to receive counselling if their family or friends could make a case for it.

What wonderfully concerned citizens these pokie palace proprietors are! They come up with a scheme that lets them look like they are happy to do something while knowing that, even if accepted, the plan will affect hardly at all the huge proportion of their profits that come from the small minority of addicted players. Then for good measure toss in a few other recommendations to hinder competitors — like a recommendation to ban credit betting and tighten controls on internet gambling.

And so to the contest for which we seek nominations from Crikey readers.

We are basing the Crikey Audacious Lobbyist of the Year Award on The Worst EU Lobbying Awards 2008 organised in Brussels by Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth Europe, LobbyControl and Spinwatch. We, like them, are looking for the lobbyist, company or lobby group that in 2008 has employed the most deceptive, misleading, or otherwise problematic lobbying tactics in their attempts to influence political decision-making.

While Clubs Australia are a worthy day one leader, there are many other potential contenders and we will be describing some of them over the coming couple of weeks. But ideas from our readers are especially welcome.

The finalists from the Worst EU Lobbying contest might help provide inspiration. The nominees in Brussels as summarised by Der Spiegel are:

  1. The Brussels-based PR and lobbying firms GPlus and Aspect Consulting for their roll in “supporting the spread of war propaganda in the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia.” The two companies helped manage the “propaganda war” for the different sides in the conflict, making a killing by keeping the media misinformed and disseminating false information about things such as the number of killed and whether Russian forces were even operating in South Ossetia.
  2. The agrofuel lobby representing the producers MPOC, Unica and Abengoa for their “misleading campaigns to promote agrofuels as green,” while denying that producing agrofuels from palm oil and sugarcane has any effect on the security of the food supply and the environment.
  3. The European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines (EAASM) for “hiding the involvement of big pharma corporations in their campaigns.” The organisation — which is funded by pharmaceutical heavy-hitters, including Bayer-Schering, Boehringer Ingelheim, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Wyeth — failed to disclose its benefactors when publishing a study that tried to dissuade people from using online discount drug providers.
  4. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) for its “deceptive lobbying campaign to avoid CO2 reduction obligations in the aviation sector.” According to the award jury, the organisation — which lobbies on behalf of aviation giants Lufthansa , British Airways and Air France — successfully persuaded EU representatives to set aviation emission limits using the figures that the lobby had publicised for the industry’s contribution to total global emissions. While the industry persuaded the European Parliament that it was 2 percent, other organizations put the figure at up to 12 percent.
  5. The European Business and Parliament Scheme (EBPS) for “abusing their location and lobbying from inside Parliament offices.” Among other things, the business association is accused of organising a gala night for corporate representatives and members of the European Parliament in official buildings.

Email your nominations to [email protected] before 14 November. Our judging panel at Crikey will draw up a short list to put to a vote of readers.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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