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Today the Senate Finance and Public Administration Reference Committee will hold its first public hearing as part of an inquiry into lobbying.

The inquiry was set up at the end of last year following support for a motion from ACT Independent Senator David Pocock. It will focus on lobbyists’ access to parliament house and the adequacy of current transparency arrangements relating to the lobbyist register.

Senators will hear evidence from fourteen witnesses and organisations including experts such as Professor Emerita Anne Twomey AO as well as officials from the Department of Parliamentary Services and the Attorney-General’s Department with 120 submissions received in total.

Senator Pocock said he hoped the inquiry would help drive more transparency and accountability in how lobbying activities are conducted.

“There is a legitimate role for lobbying but it's crucial for the health of our democracy to have appropriate guardrails around how these activities take place,” Senator Pocock said.

“There’s currently a real lack of both transparency and accountability around the lobbying activities that take place in Parliament House that must be addressed.

“I’m hoping this inquiry shines a light on that and comes up with a set of robust recommendations for reform.

“Specifically, I believe we’re seeing strong evidence presented to the inquiry about the need to ensure there is a public register of the lobbyists who have passes and who also who gave them that access.

“Politicians have given more than 2,144 people unfettered all-hours, all-areas access to parliament house, but we don’t know who those people are.

“I believe if you’re not willing to own up publicly to either having a sponsored pass or giving someone one - then maybe you shouldn’t have one.

“This kind of transparency is what our community expects and is easy to achieve. I’ve been publishing a list of everyone I have sponsored a pass for on my website since I was elected.

“We also need to see a transparent, publicly available sponsored pass list interface with the federal lobbyist register. 

“Lobbyists can exert significant influence so it’s critical that when there are breaches of the lobbying code of conduct, investigations are swift, impartial and result in meaningful sanctions, not just a slap on the wrist as is currently the case.”

The Committee is due to report on 30 April 2024.


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