Gather round and listen to this tale.
One of the promises made by the current government in opposition that they managed to get in place without much difficulty was the Lobbyists Register. This was to make the whole lobbying process more transparent. Any firms wanting to lobby the parliament would have to register themselves, and their staff and their clients and update it three times a year.
Whatever the benefit of these regulations, they seem to entail alot of red tape, particularly for smaller firms, or those for whom lobbying is only part of their activities. New regulations are meant to be assessed by a Regulatory Impact Statement.
I asked to see it. There wasn’t one. I asked why.
A long process followed.
There was alot of prodding of the Finance Department who would prod the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet whom would be elusive until prodded again after prodding from me.
Fully 6months of prodding resulted in this.
Dear Mr Green
Thank you for your query seeking information on whether a Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) was required for the Australian Government Lobbyist Register. I apologise for the delay in responding to your query.
The Office of Best Practice Regulation considered that the impact on business, including the compliance burden of the register, was relatively low. Consequently, a RIS was not required for the decision to introduce the register.
I hope this information assists your research. Should you have any further queries please contact the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as they maintain the lobbyist
The 6 months also included numerous attempts to find out who I was working for, what bodies I was affiliated with etc. and I was required to give my home address in order for it to be signed off on.
Now, there are questions here about what’s the point of an RIS. It seems the criteria for determining whether an RIS is required is similar to what an RIS does, only less open. The front page of the AFR promises changes to the register, I wonder if these will require an RIS.
But more interesting is just how long it took to get this answer. It’s hardly sensitive information that could shake governments or undermine the quality of advice by bureaucrats. It’s hardly something that would have taken long to write, or an answer that was hard to find.
Why do government departments have such great inertia against releasing information, even when the sensitivity is so low. Why are they so concerned with just who is asking about a process (RIS) that is meant to be public anyway.
Moreover, why such secrecy about a regulation designed entirely in the name of transparency?