Crikey intern Tiernan Kelly reports from Parliament House:
A bit of a faux pas at the launch of Liberal Senator and all round good guy, Guy Barnett’s new guidebook for lobbyists and those who watch lobbyists, Make a Difference.
The Parliament House launch was the third for the book and attending were Coalition heavyweights Peter Dutton, Julie Bishop and George Brandis. The Hungarian Ambassador even managed to drop in. And the man who so often appears to have rented his mouth to the Australasian Podiatry Council, Tony Abbott, was a late arrival.
If The Leader of the Opposition had arrived earlier, he would have heard the Reverend Tim Costello discuss the historical origins of lobbying in the great liberal causes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Jim Wallace said that the disillusionment of young people with politics would mean that “lobbying will become more prominent in the political process.”
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Tony Abbott was having none of that, and immediately declared on arrival, “I think the growth of a lobbying culture in recent decades has impacted on the political process, it’s contributed to the impression that government is for sale…where only the privileged can gain access to government.”
It seemed that the Leader of the Opposition might have stumbled into the wrong room until on his exit he finally hit the target, “the best cure is an open and accessible government, under this government in particular you’ve got to know the right people to get access.”
Barnett, an ex-lobbyist himself, is trying to shed some light on the highly-secretive world of lobbying, which is a combination of high-level access and knowing the schoolroom basics of parliamentary and bureaucratic process that companies often can’t be bothered learning themselves. Barnett’s work joins a limited bookshelf on the dark arts of political access, dominated by Julian Fitzgerald’s Lobbying in Australia.