Public Relations Institute supports NSW review of lobbying and election donations
The Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) welcomes the formation of an expert panel to drive election donations reform in New South Wales.
“The announcement by NSW Premier, the Hon Mike Baird, this week of an expert panel to investigate and recommend reforms to NSW election funding laws will focus on the core issue of corruption in NSW,” according to Annabelle Warren, National PRIA Board representative for Registered Consultancies.
“For too long the relationship between electoral funding and inequitable access to government decision makers has been ignored. The arrows of blame have incorrectly been flung at a small pool of consultants, but ICAC has found most of the corrupt conduct has been committed by people who have been inside Parliament or companies.”
Through many official submissions, the PRIA has urged all Australian governments to adopt clear and consistent regulations for contacting government, regardless of whether the person making the contact is a board member, an employee or a third party consultant. They must be subject to the same set of rules.
At least 25 organisations listed on the NSW Lobbyist Register are also registered with the PRIA or employ individual professional members of the PRIA. These individuals and consultancies must already adhere to strict, enforceable codes of ethics and they are actively searching for ways to build the level of professional conduct in public affairs.
“Thousands of community organisations, businesses and individuals need to contact government representatives and staff every day to discuss government programs, policies and legislation. They should be free to do so without needing to buy preferential treatment through campaign donations. Best policy comes from broad and detailed consideration of all stakeholder positions and impacts, not just of those with cash,” Ms Warren said.
The PRIA also commends the NSW government for focusing their recent changes on the conduct and disclosure of meetings by Ministers. We urge the NSW Government to consider extending these guidelines to all elected representatives. This will ensure that a culture of openness and transparency is developed throughout every corridor and corner of NSW Parliament.
The PRIA is offering to work with the NSW Government to provide training to the broad community in the ethical practice of government relations and public communication.
“Our members work full-time in public affairs functions or have incidental contact with members of parliament in many other roles such as community engagement programs. They operate under strict ethical codes. There are literally millions of people in NSW, from small community groups through to large companies, who are affected by government policy and have the right to a fair hearing within clear ethical and regulatory guidelines,” Ms Warren said.
“The members of parliament must be open about their dealings, and have a record all their meetings with due process for commercial or personally sensitive conversations.”