Lobbying and Special Interest Groups in South Australian Politics

Lobbyists interact with Government representatives to seek influence over policy-making. In order to safeguard policy-making from undue influence, Governments around the world have established lobbying regulatory regimes.

Research in less developed democracies suggests that Southern actors may find it harder to mobilise constituencies, attract donors and sponsors than their Northern counterparts. These challenges can have an impact on the effectiveness of advocacy strategies.

How do Lobbying Groups Work?

Interest groups bring pressure to bear on government through lobbying strategies and tactics. This pressure can be direct or indirect, and the tactics employed vary between and within political systems. Regardless of the approach, lobbying involves a complex web of relationships and interactions between people or interests and is a crucial part of democracy in Australia.

In South Australian politics, there is a strong relationship between lobbyists and elected members of parliament (MPs). MPs represent their electoral districts and are elected for three-year terms. They take part in debates on proposed laws and public policy and are expected to respond to their constituents’ concerns and wishes.

MPs are subject to strict rules and regulations governing their conduct in office. They must declare any lobbying activities and the details of their meetings with government representatives, and are bound by the provisions of the parliamentary privileges act.

As well as individual MPs, there are a range of state-based and national lobbying organisations that play an important role in shaping public policy. These include think tanks and academic groups, community and environmental advocacy organisations, and business associations. These bodies are often funded by the private sector, and they can influence public policy by generating and promoting information about particular issues, or submitting submissions to government inquiries.

Lobbyists can work on behalf of a wide variety of businesses, including mining companies, forestry companies, banks, telecommunications providers, energy suppliers and agricultural groups. They may be hired by individual firms or operate as part of a larger firm such as Crosby Textor or Bespoke Approach. A number of former public servants and politicians operate as lobbyists, including the former CEO of the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure Rod Hook, now operating as Rod Hook & Associates.

The South Australian Government Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach was implemented from 2007 to stimulate cross-sector policy activity addressing the social determinants of health and reduce health inequities. This paper draws on selected findings from a five year multi-methods research study of HiAP to explore the extent to which it achieved these goals. It uses institutional theory to examine the interplay between structures (including standard operating procedures, norms, rules and mandates), ideas (ranging from world views, ideology and principled beliefs to policy content) and actors (individuals, institutions and networks).

What Is a Lobbyist?

Lobbying refers to the effort to influence decisions made by government officials. It can be done either professionally or as a volunteer. Some people make lobbying their full-time job; others do it on a part-time basis. Regardless of whether they do it as professionals or volunteers, all lobbyists must register with their state. They must also agree to disclose any activities they perform on behalf of clients.

Individuals who work as professional lobbyists are often hired by law firms or consulting businesses. They have a variety of responsibilities that may include developing a client list and identifying the issues and pending legislation that affect them. Lobbyists also attend legislative committee meetings and hearings to gather information about a specific topic.

They then present their clients’ and/or causes’ points of view to a legislator or government official. This can be done in a public setting or they can hold one-on-one meetings with the decision-makers to discuss specific details. Many times, a lobbyist will have to be persuasive and be able to make a convincing case for their cause. They need to be able to explain the facts about a subject and appeal to the emotions of the lawmakers to get them on board.

In addition to educating their clients about the laws and processes that affect them, lobbyists also prepare materials to be distributed to lawmakers. These materials can range from pamphlets to videos. Often, these materials are designed to educate legislators about the benefits of their cause or the harm that would result if their bill is not passed.

While a lot of citizens may criticize politicians who accept special interest donations from a lobbyist, the fact is that most of these lobbyists have an impact on society. Whether it is for the environment, education or human rights, their efforts can help improve conditions for many individuals and groups.

Any person who receives any economic consideration, other than reimbursement for reasonable travel expenses, in exchange for communicating directly or through his or her agents with any elective state official, agency official or legislative official for the purpose of promoting, advocating, opposing or otherwise attempting to influence the passage or defeat or executive approval or veto of any legislation is a lobbyist. Tenn. Code Ann. SS 3-6-301. However, lobbyists who limit their lobbying to attending receptions, dinners, parties or other group functions and do not make any expenditure in connection with those activities are exempt from registration.

What Is a Special Interest Group?

A special interest group is a community within an organization that collaborates to advance a specific area of knowledge, learning and technology. A SIG may communicate, hold meetings and organize conferences in addition to lobbying on behalf of its members. A SIG is not a trade association, although they may overlap to some extent. Traditionally, lobbying is done by formally organized associations, but non-associational groups and interests also have an important role. They include spontaneous protest movements formed in reaction to a particular policy or event, and informal groups of citizens and officials of public or private organizations.

Some interest groups consist of individuals, such as ranchers or fruit growers who form farm commodity organizations. Others are comprised of organizations, such as business groups (e.g., the Confederation of British Industry or IG Metall in Europe), labour organizations (e.g., the AFL-CIO in the United States or the Trades Union Congress in the UK), religious organizations, such as the Jewish Federation of Australia and the Islamic Society of South Australia, environmental groups, such as Greenpeace or the Australian Conservation Foundation, and even corporations.

These groups often monitor legislation and inform elected representatives of their opinions, expressing their civic voice on matters that will affect them. They are sometimes called peak associations because they act as the leading body in their field in a given country. They may have a formal structure, such as a national or state organization, but they can also be informal and loosely structured, such as a coalition of local organizations.

Other groups, like political parties, can serve as an umbrella for a variety of interest groups. They are often able to leverage their resources and influence by pooling the clout of many smaller organizations. This makes them a more powerful force in politics than the individual, but they can still be vulnerable to corruption and are prone to the same ideological battles as all other political institutions. Because of this, they must guard against becoming captured by special interests. They must be transparent and accountable to their members and the broader society.

What Is a Political Party?

A political party is an organized group of people with at least roughly similar political aims and opinions who aim to influence public policy by getting their candidates elected to government. Political parties typically advertise a set of political, social, economic, and cultural values (an ideology) that distinguish them from other political parties and that they hope to implement through their members who hold public office.

In democratic countries, a political party aims to attract the support of citizens who share its ideology by putting forward a candidate or candidates for election to a legislative body, such as a parliament or municipal council. Political parties also function as institutionalized mediators between civil society and the duly elected representatives who are responsible for deciding public policy.

Depending on the country, parties may also seek to coordinate their activities with each other to compete in elections for local, state or national government offices. They may also organize and conduct campaigns to promote their candidates or positions on particular issues. They may also promote themselves by distributing literature, and they are often associated with specific colours and symbols to aid voters in identifying them on ballot papers and in other visual media.

Political parties encourage citizen involvement in politics by promoting the idea that they can directly influence policy through electoral votes and other forms of direct participation. They can also provide a framework for competition in the form of internal elections to decide which candidates will be nominated for office and what their priorities should be.

The party organization is primarily responsible for creating the platform, recruiting candidates and providing support for their election campaigns. The party in government is comprised of the politicians who are elected as part of the party and are responsible for proposing, debating, voting on and passing legislation that meets the platform goals. The party in the electorate is composed of citizens who identify with a particular party and support its candidates by volunteering their time, donating money or votes, and by turning out to vote. Political parties can be very effective at influencing public policy in a democracy but their very structure, where individuals exert power over many, can also invite corruption and skewed decisions.