Lobbying activities refer to communications with government representatives in an effort to influence government decision-making. To help safeguard decision-making processes from factors such as undue influence or unfair competition, governments around the world, including the Australian Government, have introduced lobbying regulatory regimes.
The Australian Government’s regime was established with the introduction of the Lobbying Code of Conduct (Code) in 2008.
Lobbyist organisations have administrative responsibilities associated with keeping the Register up to date, and lobbyist organisations and individual lobbyists must also comply with a number of lobbying principles and prohibitions under the Code. Government representatives are required to check the Register prior to meeting with a lobbyist, and to report any known breaches of the Code. The Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) became responsible for administering the Code following a machinery of government change that transferred accountability from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) in May 2018.
This audit is a follow-up to the Auditor-General Report No.27 of 2017–18, Management of the Australian Government’s Register of Lobbyists. The appropriate and timely implementation of agreed recommendations is an important part of realising the full benefit of an audit. The audit responds to public and Parliamentary interest in lobbying activities being carried out with integrity and transparency.
- The Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) did not implement the recommendation from Auditor-General Report No.27 of 2017–18, Management of the Australian Government’s Register of Lobbyists.
- Governance arrangements to oversee the implementation of the ANAO recommendation were limited in effectiveness. There was no implementation planning at any stage in the transition of accountability for the Code and ANAO recommendation from PM&C to AGD. Progress against the ANAO recommendation was first reported to the AGD Audit and Risk Management Committee (ARMC) in August 2019.
- The AGD did not develop a strategy to raise awareness of the Code. Registered lobbyists received information about some of their administrative responsibilities. Limited activities were undertaken to inform lobbyists and Government representatives of their compliance obligations under the Code.