If you look closely enough wandering around Australian Parliament House, you will see men — and it’s mostly men — in suits and orange lanyards mingling in the courtyards and drinking coffee around cafe tables.
The orange lanyards signify that they are lobbyists — third-party lobbyists with free access to the private areas of Parliament House. A few of them are more like consultants — they don’t do much lobbying themselves, but advise lobbyists and clients on how to lobby more effectively. Their names are on the official Lobbyists Register, these days maintained by the Attorney-General’s Department. There are currently 586 people in over 260 firms on the register.
The reality of modern policymaking is that those affected by policy — stakeholders, in bureaucratic parlance — devote considerable resources to influencing it, trying to get the ear of politicians and bureaucrats to shape legislation and regulations to better serve their interests. And the more tightly they are regulated, the more they will seek to shape that regulation. They may be big corporations, industry peak bodies, unions, charities, or NGOs. Lobbyists are the primary mechanism to do that. As the Australian Professional Government Relations Association points out: anyone can have a meeting with a politician, but some use experts and that’s where lobbyists step in. They understand that they’re representing vested interests. “Mother Theresa didn’t need her own lobbyist, her work spoke for itself,” one lobbyist quipped.