Updated October 3, 2011
Lately, Brett’s been banging on about the rise and rise of the lobby group in Australian public life and policy. He didn’t expect to get confirmation from one of the nation’s most influential lobbyists Mitch Hooke, chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia who recently told the Australian Financial Review:
…over the period of the past four years, there has been a profound shift in the manner of public policy development and implementation. The new paradigm is one of public contest through the popular media more so than rational, considered, effective consultation and debate.
Mitch is right. Welcome to the Lobbying Age when; more than ever, issues will be prioritised and dealt with in direct accordance to weight of the lobby group that brings the issue to the attention of our politicians. The Minerals Council spent $17 miliion fighting the original mining tax.
Big interests have put away the gloves – look at slick national campaigns by the mining, tobacco and gaming industries. These huge anti-government policy campaigns will become standard issue in years to come.
This is entirely in step with American developments where citizens have the “right to petition” enshrined in their constitution. We don’t but that doesn’t mean a thing. The biggest, most threatening lobby will win. Good policy be damned.
The best organised, financed and connected will benefit. Right now that means mining, media, gaming, pharmaceutical and banking are winning. You don’t necessarily need disposable income to be a powerful lobby – the Christian lobby has huge influence in issues such as marriage equality and equal opportunity law exemptions despite miniscule church attendance. They just know the right people.
Some groups have no formal structure – Western Sydney is an obsession with our politicians. It makes its ineloquent presence felt through junk radio and television. Boat people? We don’t think so. Gay marriage? We don’t think so. Carbon tax? We don’t think so. Flags worn as shawls. We think so.
So how effectively do the education, aged, disabled, secularists, youth and community sectors make their presence felt? Not so good, though the NDIS announcement was a massive feather in campaigners’ caps. Environment rates better. The best mass campaign of recent years was the ACTU’s Your Rights At Work campaign – mind you they had a lot to work with including Work Choices and a out-of-favour government.
Regardless; we need fierce and independent peaks ready to campaign as relentlessly as their opposing forces. Seriously – do you think things are going to get better otherwise?