To strengthen democracy and trust in politics, the NSW public must know who is influencing political decisions, the Human Rights Law Centre stated in a submission to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.
The Commission is investigating how NSW laws can be strengthened to allow for more public scrutiny over who is meeting with NSW government decision-makers, including politicians, their staff and senior public servants. It is also considering laws to stop industry from buying political favours by offering politicians and staffers lucrative jobs for when they finish up in politics.
Alice Drury, Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, welcomed the ICAC inquiry and said that NSW has a chance to lead the nation by introducing laws that will increase transparency in politics.
“Corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year lobbying government and their lobbyists far out-number those representing community interests in the halls of Parliament. With the system stacked so heavily on the side of profit-chasing interests, there is a huge risk that the overwhelming incentives provided by industry drown out the interests of community representatives. It is high time we put an end to the revolving door of favours between big business and politicians.”
Industry lobbying can lead to deep connections between the politically powerful and the incredibly rich, and these relationships have been at the centre of a number of corruption scandals in NSW. This damages the legitimacy of government decision-making and institutions and is in part responsible for Australians’ plummeting faith in democracy.
“Australians are losing faith in government because they see that politicians are listening to their mates in the corporate box and out on the golf course instead of their communities.”
“A healthy democracy requires politicians to hear from people in all our diversity, not just the privileged few. Greater transparency over lobbying is a step in the right direction, albeit long overdue,” said Ms Drury.
The Human Rights Law Centre recommended that ICAC should undertake careful consultation with civil society to ensure reforms strike the right balance. NSW ICAC’s suggestions, including broadening the public lobbying register and strengthening laws to stop politicians and staffers from accepting lobbying jobs after Parliament, are a step in the right direction.
This investigation follows recommendations made by NSW ICAC in 2010 and by experts in 2014, only a fraction of which have been implemented.
For media contact:
Michelle Bennett: Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre: 0419 100 519