The biggest vested interest of all: how government lobbies to restrict individual rights and freedom

Public sector Democracy Policy Australia

The Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan wrote in The Monthly in March 2012 that : Australia’s fair go is today under threat from a new source.

"To be blunt, the rising power of vested interests is undermining our equality and threatening our democracy."

But not all vested interests are private corporations. This paper draws attention to two statutory agencies of the Commonwealth Government that have an explicit, legislatively - defined function to lobby and advocate for public policy change – the Australian National Preventive Health Agency and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

These two agencies are effectively taxpayer funded lobbyists, embedded in the public policy process, enjoying privileged access to the institutions of government.

The Australian National Preventative Health Agency (ANPHA) received $57,718,000 in the 2012 - 13 Federal Budget to “driv[e] the national capacity for change and innovation around preventive health policies and programs.”

ANPHA publicly advocates and privately lobbies for a wide range of Nanny State restrictions on alcohol, tobacco, and unhealthy food.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) received $23,133,000 in the 2012 - 13 Federal Budget . One oF its primary tasks is to “promote an understanding and acceptance ... of human rights in Australia ... undertake research and educational programs” and “develop laws, policies and programs” for parliament to enact. ( Unfortunately, the AHRC does not disclose how much it of it s budget it directs towards this task.)

However the human rights that the AHRC chooses to promote and advocate are highly selective, favouring certain rights above others.

As well as being policy lobbyists in their own right, AHRC and ANPHA are central to a pattern of relationships between the government and non - government sectors. Taxpayer money is being used to lobby for the allocation of more taxpayer money.

One - third of the submissions to the Preventative Health Taskforce – which established the Australian National Preventive Health Agency – were from bodies which received large amounts of taxpayer funding .

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