Last week I asked a polite question to Mark Textor of Crosby Textor about the failure of his company to register as lobbyists with the Federal government in Australia. It’s a complicated system because lobbyists not only have to register with the Federal government but with any of the eight Federal/Territory governments they are lobbying.
Mr Textor refused to answer my question, brushing aside my request with bluster about constitutional rights.
I wasn’t sure whether Mr Textor actually thought of himself as a lobbyist. He’s very proud of his polling and I had a hunch that he might interpret the work he did for companies like Philip Morris as pure research and therefore, in some way not designed to sway the thinking of policy makers. In recent weeks this notion has been comprehensively demolished in the UK.
When it was revealed that Crosby Textor had presented data to politicians and policy makers the public’s view of plain packaging for cigarettes, the Cabinet Secretary – our most senior civil servant – made public that there was a document he describes as “principles of engagement” to ensure that there were “no perceptions of impropriety” over inappropriate lobbying. This is our Prime Minister attempting to protect himself from accusations that he was compromised by his relationship with Lynton Crosby, who has many clients in the private sector that stand to win or lose from a change of government policy.
Anyway, as Mr Textor wouldn’t answer my question, I’ve been doing some homework. The rules, as I understand them, seem to state that any government official who meets Mr Textor will be in breach of the code. If you are an official of the Australian Federal government, I hope you find the information below of benefit.
The Register includes an FAQ page that may be of assistance in applying the Code (http://lobbyists.pmc.gov.au/
“14. What does a Government representative need to do if approached by a lobbyist?
Clause 4.1 of the Code states that a Government representative shall not knowingly and intentionally engage in lobbying activities with a lobbyist who is not on the Register, or with a lobbyist who fails to observe any of the requirements of clause 8(1)(e) of the Code.
Clause 8.1(e) sets out the following requirements for lobbyists when they make initial contact with a Government representative:
- · they must inform you that they are a lobbyist or an employee of, or a contractor or a person engaged by a lobbyist
- · they must advise you whether they are currently listed on the Register of Lobbyists
- · they must advise you of their relevant client or clients, and
- · they must advise you of the matters that their client wishes them to raise with you.”
A lobbyist who fails to meet the above requirements would be in breach of the Code and a government official should decline to meet with them. Clause 9.1 of the Code requires a government official to report any breaches of the Code to the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
An official can check that the lobbyist and client are listed on the Register by accessing the Register at https://lobbyists.pmc.gov.au and clicking on ‘Who is on the Register’. While the onus is on the lobbyist to supply the required information, it would be prudent for a Government representative to check that the details provided are correct, particularly if they have had no previous dealings with that lobbyist in relation to a particular client.
I’m going to spend the next few days checking all the register of the State/Territory governments to see whether Mr Textor has made any declarations that may be of interest.