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What is Lobbying?

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

As an international human rights legal advocate and lobbyist since 2009, both on national and international human rights projects, I am willing to share some tips with you here ....

Lobbying is an important part of any democratic political system, and an opportunity for groups, advocates, individuals or communities to: "have their say".


Lobbying is defined as any attempt by individuals or private interest groups to influence the decisions of government.


Lobbying in some form is inevitable in any political system.


Lobbying is similar to advocacy, in that: it is the process of representation, either of an issue of a person/people group and their interests. Lobbying is different to advocacy, although it involves advocacy, as it takes on a political nature.



Lobbying can be undertaken at the local, state or federal parliamentary levels.


Lobbying is also important as a process of accountability and transparency of Council, Government and politicians and the portfolios they are responsible for.


Lobbying is a legitimate activity and an important part of the democratic process.

Lobbyists can help individuals and organisations to communicate their views on matters of public importance to the Australian Government. In doing so, they can help to improve outcomes for the individual and the community as a whole.


It is important that Australian Government representatives know whose interests lobbyists and/or advocates are representing.



TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL LOBBYING:


STEP ONE: IDENTIFY YOUR PROBLEM

If you are not clear on the issues you wish to represent, those you speak to will not be clear on your message either.


Run a community consultation or round table discussion with key leaders to narrow the scope and definition of the 'problem' you are representing.


Identifying your problem clearly is your first step to identifying your solutions!


Another integral first step is to recruit the right team for key roles!

You may need to undertake a volunteer drive with a messaging around your support needs.


Formulate your vision, mission statements and measurable, achievable step-by-step goals.


STEP TWO: DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE

Do your research!


What laws, policies and regulations are already in place that deal with the matter you are lobbying/advocating for?


What services, organisations or solutions already exist as proposed solutions to such matters?


Involve as many people as you can in the process, and allow them to own the process by their contributions!


Put a survey or on-line petition together to develop momentum for your matter.

This is an opportunity for you to:

- build support;

- collect anecdotal data;

- create exposure and interest; and

- build an on-line campaign around the issue.


Doing due diligence also involves putting together a report with the data, facts, stats and stories of those you are representing. This will come in very handy!


Use your report prolifically in your campaigns, and refer to them in your meetings with elected members.

STEP THREE: KNOW YOUR JURISDICTION!

If you lobby or advocate in the wrong jurisdiction, your work may be wasted!


Research the correct level of government and the right member with the correct portfolio pertaining to your matter.


Make sure the people you speak with have the AUTHORITY to effect change!


Jurisdiction changes everything!


It may be relevant to lobby and advocate to all three local, state and federal levels of government for your matter. By doing so, you may cover different areas of need.


STEP FOUR: STRATEGISE YOUR SOLUTION!

You cannot change anything if you do not have a suggested solution to the problem you raise!


And, it is not effective to lobby or advocate if you do not have a suggested way forward for real change.


Meet with all the relevant key stakeholders pertaining to your issue, run conferences, on-line petitions and an opportunity for the wider public to provide their feedback, in addition to running round-table discussions with key leaders and victims survivors.


Come up with a clear, strategic change solution, considering all the relevant factors, including:

- needs of all stakeholders;

- psychological/emotional impact;

- social impact and potential contributions;

- community needs and potential contributions;

- environmental impact;

- practical requirements;

- infrastructure needs, and

- economic needs.


Make sure you have considered existing resources, services and key stakeholders recognised as provers in the industry, and that your solution goes beyond that which already exists.


Find you niche!

STEP FIVE: LAUNCH A STRATEGIC CAMPAIGN!

Your campaign should encompass all the key voices, research and data you have undertaken thus far!


Make sure your message firstly clearly defines the problem and then discusses the solution in the context of the research and consultation you have undertaken.


Your campaign should be broad in nature, and encompass:

- on-line petitions and surveys;

- run email and media campaigns;

- on-line education and messaging;

- social media campaigns;

- conferences, seminars and education rallies and events;

- consultation, round table discussions and reporting;

- meetings with key leaders and representatives;

- video and photo records of all activities;

- rallying support and building a solution - focused step by step plan to achieve your goals.


STEP SIX: MEET WITH YOUR ELECTED MEMBERS!

When meeting with the right members of parliament in the right jurisdiction who cover the required portfolio, make sure you take the right stuff with you to the meeting!


Take your written reports, the most influential community leaders, and a victim or a spokesperson for the issue who can share their story.


Make sure you take your written report with you, and that you are really to the meeting, dress professionally and leave a good impression!


Be clear with the Member who you represent, including the amount of people, the community or issue you are speaking out on behalf of, and how many of their votes it translates too.


REMEMBER: The point of meeting with the member of parliament is to:

- clearly articulate the problem you have identified;

- clearly present a solution;

- include a holistic approach to a suggested government policy;

- suggested social programs;

- suggested community involvemen;

- list the benefits to government and the recipients;

- the proposed impact of the legislative and policy reform;

- the change solution you propose; and

- the funding required to implement your plan.


STEP SEVEN: EXECUTE YOUR PLAN

Follow up is everything!


Make sure you follow up with those on your team, the leaders you have engaged, and the representatives you have spoken with!


Put into place your suggested solutions, and report on the success of the implementation and take-up of the solution as part of your ongoing advocacy and lobbying change.


Report o your success using your campaign platforms and by meeting with key representatives again!


STEP EIGHT: REPEAT!

Lobbying and advocacy never stops!


Repeat each step periodically by tweaking your identified problem, the research and data you are using, and the solution you have come up with .... until you get results!

THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT STANDARDS OF LOBBYING

Recently, the Australian Federal Government have introduced Lobbying Registrations and a Code of Conduct for adherence.


The Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department state on their website: "Any person who acts on behalf of third-party clients for the purpose of lobbying Australian Government representatives must register and comply with the requirements of the code".


The Lobbying Code of Conduct drafted by the Commonwealth Attorney-General defines lobbying activities as communications with Australian Government representatives in an effort to influence federal government decision-making.


The Code of Conduct can be found here:

lobbying-code-of-conduct
.PDF
Download PDF • 633KB

This includes:

  • making or amendment of legislation

  • development or amendment of a government policy or program

  • awarding of a government contract or grant

  • allocation of funding.

If a person undertakes communications, in an effort to influence government decision-making on behalf of a third party, with people including a minister, an assistant minister, their staff or any person employed in the Australian Public Service, they must be registered before such communications take place.


This applies regardless of whether a person styles themselves as a lobbyist.

Certain activities are not considered lobbying activities under the code. These include:

  • communicating with a Parliamentary Committee

  • providing information in response to a request by a government representative

  • communicating with a minister in their capacity as a local member (see the definition of 'lobbying activities' in subsection 5(1) of the code).

The code does not apply to lobbyists who make representations to government (or conduct lobbying activity) on behalf of their employer ('in-house' lobbyists), as these representations are considered sufficiently transparent.


Exemptions

The following people and groups are excluded from the code's definition of a 'lobbyist':

  • charities and religious organisations

  • non-profit organisations and associations

  • individuals making representations on behalf of relatives or friends

  • members of foreign trade delegations

  • people already registered under a Commonwealth scheme regulating certain professions (such as tax agents and customs brokers) who make representations to the government on behalf of clients

  • service providers (such as lawyers, doctors, accountants and other service providers) who make occasional representations to the government on behalf of clients in a way that is incidental to the provision of their professional services.

Principles of engagement

Under section 12 of the code, you must observe the following 5 principles when engaging with Australian Government representatives:

  • Use truthful and accurate statements

  • No corrupt, dishonest, illegal or unlawful conduct

  • Do not make misleading or exaggerated claims

  • Keep lobbying activity and personal activity on behalf of a political party separate

  • Always make clear that you are a registered lobbyist representing a client, the reason for the meeting and, if applicable, that you are a former Australian Government representative within a prohibition period.

In practice this means that you must:

  • Apply to be included on the register, including providing a statutory declaration, details of your organisation's ownership and third party clients.

  • Comply with all obligations under the code when engaging with Australian Government representatives.

  • Update registration details twice-yearly, within 10 business days of 1 February and 1 July each year.

  • Between twice-yearly updates to registration details, notify the department of any changes (including changes to the matters declared in your most recent statutory declaration) as soon as practicable and within 10 business days.

How to Register

If you are acting on behalf of third-party clients, whether paid or unpaid, for the purpose of lobbying Australian Government representatives you must be registered and comply with the requirements of the code.

Complete a registration through the register portal- external site, with your application generally being processed within 5 working days after receiving the necessary documentation, including a statutory declaration.


Keep lobbying and advocating!


Book in Andrea to train your team or to

strategise and help you plan your next

lobbying and advocacy campaign here!



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