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Scenarios - questions about lobbying

Scenario 1

Jack Jones’ daughter is receiving dialysis, which requires her to attend her district hospital four times a week. She wishes to make a transition to home dialysis. Enquiries at the district hospital have met with little response because of funding constraints. Jack approached his local member, who is the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, and asked him to see what could be done about a home dialysis machine.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary a lobbyist in these circumstances?

The Parliamentary Secretary is never a lobbyist. A lobbyist is an entity that carries out lobbying activities for a third party client (section 41(1)) but not a non-profit entity (section 41(2)(a)).

An MP, including a Parliamentary Secretary, is not paid by the person whose interests they are representing. To that extent, they fall within the definition of “non-profit” entities. (If they did receive a payment from the constituent they would be in trouble with the Parliamentary Privileges Committee and could be expelled from Parliament. Of course, it would also be a crime.)

There is a separate issue for the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, who, for reasons concerning the integrity system, ought to ensure that any lobbying they do is through their electorate office. It should not be done officially as Parliamentary Secretary for Health.

Scenario 2

The CEO of a large multinational building company intends to develop land in the Mackay area. He approaches DEEDI about DEEDI becoming a long term tenant in some of the buildings in the development. Is the CEO a lobbyist in these circumstances?

The CEO is an employee of the building company and is promoting its interests.

He is not required to register as a lobbyist, because he is not carrying out lobbying activities for a third party client (section 41(1)) and he is an employee of an entity representing the entity’s interests (sections 41(2)(e) and (3)(b)).

Scenario 3

You are attending a launch of the Chief Health Officer Bi-annual Report. During the launch a public relations officer for a private company comes to talk to you about a company known as Fitness Second. This company wants to roll out a State-wide fitness program for 8 to 12 year olds. You checked the Register of Lobbyists before attending this function and the public relations person was not on the register. What should you do?

The position here is similar to that in scenario 2 – the public relations officer is an employee of Fitness Second and wants to advance the company’s interests (see section 41(2)(e) and (3)(b)). Registration as a lobbyist is not required.

For the purposes of the Public Records Act, the public relations officer should be treated as though he or she is a lobbyist and a record should be kept of the full details of the exchanges between you.

Nonetheless, for the purpose of the Public Records Act, a record should be kept of the exchanges between you and the public records officer.

Scenario 4

Community Cabinet is being held at the Gold Coast. The Queenslanders Against Fluoride group is attending to put its issues to government. You are asked by policy officers for the Minister to contact its President to discuss its issues and confirm the questions the group will be asking at the meeting. Is the group a lobbyist and what is the appropriate action for senior public services?

Queenslanders Against Fluoride is presumably not carrying out a lobbying activity for a third party client (section 41(1)). It is probably also exempt from registration under section 41(2)(a) and (e) and, in relation to the Community Cabinet meeting, would be exempt under section 42(c), (d), (f) and (g).

The Minister’s advisers are entitled to ask the Department for a briefing for the Minister on what the Department expects the group to raise as questions or comments at the Community Cabinet. Whether it would be prudent for the Department to contact the group’s president directly is an interesting issue that, no doubt, the Director-General might like to discuss with the Minister, because there could be political (media exposure) consequences resulting from adopting that course of action.

Meanwhile, for the benefit of the Minister, officers of the Department should draw up an appropriate brief concerning what they know about the group's interests and activities.

Scenario 5

Anna Smith seeks a meeting with a senior officer of the department. Anna has become aware that the department is reviewing legislation and intends to put a number of changes before the government. Anna is seeking to learn the content of these proposed changes and seeks inclusion of issues specific to her industry (e.g. provider of services in a related area). Is Anna a lobbyist?

Anna Smith is not a lobbyist if she is merely wanting to put forward views on the inclusion of issues specific to her industry, assuming she is not employed to carry out lobbying activities for a third party client (section 41(1)) and/or she is an employee of an entity lobbying in relation to its own interest (section 41(3)(b)) and/or the entity is carrying out incidental lobbying activities (section 41(5)).

More information would be required to determine specifically how her activity should be classified.

However, Anna is entitles as a private citizen to try to find out what the content is of the proposed changes (even if she is also a registered lobbyist).

Scenario 6

Dr Stuart Glass holds multiple positions. These include head of a professional board, a member of a college, and chair of a government advisory group. Dr Glass is seeking a change in government policy that would benefit his profession. Dr Glass seeks a meeting with the senior policy officer but has not articulated the specific purpose of this discussion. Is Dr Glass a lobbyist?

There is no suggestion that Dr Glass is carrying out a lobbying activity for a third party client. He is not a lobbyist – see section 41(1).

Even if he is receiving an honorarium he would appear to be exempt from registration under section 41(2)(a), (b), (d) and /or (e).

Scenario 7

At Western Town Regional Council, in addition to attending general meetings, all councillors sit on the standing committees of the Council and have equal voting rights.

In effect, all councillors are equally involved in the decision-making processes of council across the full spectrum of council matters, including:

  • planning development
  • works and services
  • and community and economic development.

Section 70 of the Act states that, for two years after becoming a former senior government representative, a former senior government representative must not carry out a ‘related lobbying activity’ for a third party client. A related lobbying activity means an activity relating to the former senior government representative’s official dealings in the two years before leaving the senior government post.

When can a former councillor start working as a lobbyist?

The consequence of section 70(3) is that former councillors in Western Town Regional Council cannot be involved in a lobbying activity for a third party client in the two years after leaving office as a senior government representative because of their direct involvement in decision-making across the spectrum of Council business.

Interpreting official dealing and related lobbying activity is the responsibility of current councillors and council officers who the former councillors may seek to lobby (section 70(2)).

This requirement may raise disciplinary problems under the Local Government Act 2009, should a breach of this section occur.

Scenario 8

A directorate has funding available for a specific project. Staff are consulting with a range of stakeholders on how the project should be developed.

Mr Douglas Adams is a senior representative of a non-government agency. Mr Adams is actively promoting a particular view on what the scope of the project should be and how it should be conducted.

Mr Adams specifically promotes an area in which his organisation has expertise. He further promotes the engagement of external consultants to undertake the work – something his organisation is well placed to apply for. Should Mr Adams be registered as a lobbyist?

Mr Adams is looking after his own interests and that of the company he represents.

The company is not a third party lobbyist and therefore it is not required to be on the register. Nor is he, as its employee, required to be on the register.

Scenario 9

Getthingsdone Group, a lobbying entity, has offered a job as a lobbyist to Gerry Poole.

The Register of Lobbyists change of details form has been completed and Gerry has signed a statutory declaration in the presence of a JP but his registration has not yet been approved. Gerry will start work on Monday.

On Monday afternoon Bill Bland, a senior member of Getthingsdone Group, has an appointment with a government representative, Pete Service. He wishes to take Gerry with him so that Gerry can meet Pete.

Can he do so when Gerry is not a registered lobbyist?

Bill can introduce Gerry to Pete and still comply with the Act if Gerry does not attempt to participate in or carry out any lobbying activity (see sections 41 and 42).

If the purpose of the meeting is for Bill to lobby Pete about a matter, Bill should ensure Gerry leaves the meeting after the introduction and before the lobbying activity begins.

Alternatively, Getthingsdone Group could contact the Office of the Integrity Commissioner and ask that Gerry’s registration be finalised as a matter of urgency.

If this is possible the office will make every effort to ensure Gerry’s name is on the register before the meeting.

Scenario 10

Getthingsdone Group, a lobbying entity, also has a marketing arm to its business. Kerry Johnson, who acts for both marketing and lobbying clients, is requested by one of his marketing clients to ask the Minister for Cats and Dogs to attend an event to be sponsored by his business in order that the client can meet the Minister.

Kerry knows that his client intends to try to influence the Minister about a matter of interest to the client’s business. While Kerry himself has not been asked to lobby the Minister about this matter, he is unsure as to whether he should list his marketing client as a lobbying client on the Register of Lobbyists. Should he?

Yes, he should register the client as a lobbying client. While the client was originally a marketing client, he has asked Kerry to assist in and participate in a lobbying activity, even though Kerry will not initially be speaking to the Minister about the matter himself.

Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia (CC BY-ND 3.0)
Last updated
3 May, 2016

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