2 Mar. 2007

The Elephant In The Party Room

Christian Kerr writes in Crikey today:
Lobbying in Australia is a one billion dollar a year business that compromises people from all the political parties.

And it’s not just a matter of big money for lobbyists. It’s also big money for the parties themselves.

I’ve worked on both sides of the fence. I’ve been an adviser to two federal cabinet ministers and a state premier and the corporate relations manager to one of Australia’s largest infrastructure companies. And I’ve always been struck by just how dumb the top end of town can be when it comes to dealing with politics and politicians.

Brian Burke might be a disgraced former politician, but at least he was a successful politician. It’s amazing to see the shamed second raters who go knocking on doors around different CBDs – let alone who lets them in – but it’s all part of the game.

It’s not at all uncommon for suits to shell out a grand apiece to sit in a banquet room with a couple of hundred other suits – all just to bask in proximity to a senior state or federal pol. I’ve sat in rooms with people who have paid much, much more to for a more intimate chat over the table. My employers used to pay for me just to attend party meetings as a business observer.

People who hold jobs like the one I used to hold – most of them former staffers or party officials – have their cake and eat it. They pull big salaries, enjoy the dos and get to catch up with our old mates.

Lobbyists "advise" clients to attend these functions. They make money doing that. And the parties pocket the profits.