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March 1, 2021

Lobbying industry on the nose

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Re your article in Echonetdaily April 22 headed ‘Railway bridges about to be demolished’.
Quote: ‘Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi has written to NSW transport minister Gladys Berejiklian this week querying the government’s plans for the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line’ unquote.
Nice try Mehreen, but let’s have a bit of reality about the C-M rail line and politics in general. It matters not which political party governs, they will do as they are told by the most powerful lobbyists. Lobbying is a multi-billion dollar industry. Lobbyists have the power to break any politician or political party that does not ‘come up with the goods’.
Here’s a federal register of lobbyists and their clients: http://lobbyists.pmc.gov.au/who_register.cfm
(On the NSW register of lobbyists, their clients are conveniently not listed).
And here is an expose of how lobbyists work: http://meanjin.com.au/articles/post/lobbying-for-the-dark-side/
Road transport companies don’t like competition from railways and neither do road construction companies. Oil companies prefer to not have fuel-efficient trains operating (buses use more fuel), and developers go into fits of euphoria at the thought of the NSW government selling off the C-M rail corridor.
If you think letters, protests, demonstrations etc, will do any good to get our C-M rail line ever up and running again, then all I can say is: dream on.
Only two political parties have vowed to ban lobbyists if they ever gained any power to do so, the One Nation Party (politically assassinated by the media) and Clive Palmer’s PUP Party. Clive is the lobbyists’ ‘work in progress’; being portrayed in the media as a bumbling buffoon in order to manufacture public consent to have him ousted.
Peggy Balfour, Mullumbimby
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  1. These are very worthwhile issues to raise Peggy. But I think that your perspective of the ‘multi-million dollar’ lobbying industry could benefit from a little nuance. Yes, lobbyists exert considerable influence – but only as a proxy for business or whoever else might afford their services. With business and government so utterly enmeshed in the neoliberal age – to assert an autonomous role for lobbyists is, I think, to miss the point.
    Government is an arbiter between different groups. Lobbyists amplify the voices of those groups in the ears of government. Of course business deploys its financial resources to use lobbyists to great effect, as the case of the Resource Super Profits Tax of 2010 amply demonstrates. But the unions also very effectively lobbied against Howard’s work choices – probably not forcing the result of the 2007 election but certainly causing future attacks on the industrial relations arena to be more circumspect.
    Furthermore, your comments about Clive Palmer’s desire to ban lobbyists are interesting. Clive does not need lobbyists – he is them. He has simply done away with the middle man. To claim that the discourse of Clive as a ‘buffoon’ is an initiative of the lobbyists is, I would suggest, a stretch. While the media is dependent on a whole range of interests (Rupert and us as consumers) the buffoon narrative has purchase firstly because Clive is manifestly a buffoon. And second the interests that he represents (his own business interests) are perhaps perceived by the public as being too close. In short he is too conflicted. Although he might advocate for a few bikkies to be thrown the way of returned servicemen and pensioners, there is a suspicion that the magnate as member is an affront on whatever last morsels of democracy have survived that last thirty years of the neoliberal project.


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