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Lobbying 101: how interest groups influence politicians and the public to get what they want

George Rennie writes in The Conversation (9.6.16) about the system of political lobbying in Australia, described by the author as ‘a multi-billion dollar industry which employs a sophisticated strategy to win public opinion and political favours for its clients or members’.

‘Over the past 20 years, lobbying activities in Australia have expanded dramatically. Following the United States’ lead, where a radical shift in ideology in the 1970s led to a re-evaluation of the way corporations view their role in society, the notion of corporate “civic duty” has been replaced by a belief that governments and the public are fair game for special interests.

‘ … Lobbying plays a critical role in Australia’s representative democracy. The sheer plurality of voices in a country of 23 million ensures that Australia needs a system to filter and convey the views of the many to the few who represent them. To that end, the role of the lobbyist is critical.

‘However, the dangers of lobbying are great. The potential for regulatory and government capture by special interests, as well as the ability of powerful concentrated interests to drown out other voices in public debate, presents significant challenges for Australian democracy.’

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