Monthly ministerial diary disclosures among measures proposed to enhance political transparency

The Australia Institute

Media release | Monday, 8 April 2024

Ministerial diaries would be published monthly and access to Parliament House would be democratised under news recommendations from the Australia Institute.

In a submission to the Senate Inquiry examining access to Australian Parliament House by lobbyists, the Australia Institute highlights critical concerns about the prevalence of lobbying in Australian politics, including the need for enhanced transparency and oversight.

The Institute identifies a lack of transparency around lobbying activities and the influence of lobbyists, particularly from corporate sectors, as a threat to the integrity of the political decision-making processes.

Key recommendations:

  • Monthly disclosure of ministerial diaries, including the purpose of the meeting. Add links to the lobbyist register so lobbyists’ meetings appear alongside their other information on the register.

  • Equitable access to parliament: Reinstate unaccompanied passes to ensure more democratic access to Parliament House. The current sponsored pass system favours lobbyists and those with established political connections.

  • Strengthening oversight on lobbying practices: Extend the lobbyist register to in-house lobbyists and review enforcement mechanisms, including sanctions for lobbyist code of conduct violations.

“Access to government ministers should be transparent and equitable. People are entitled to know who is influencing public decision-making, and judge for themselves whether that influence is undue,” said Bill Browne Director, Democracy & Accountability Program at the Australia Institute.

“Lobbyists and people with established connections benefit from a level of access to Parliament House that is denied to many others. All representative bodies such as civil society groups, community organisations and charities should have equity of access to parliament to meet with parliamentarians and their staff.

“Current lobbying rules lack sanctions for misconduct, making them toothless.

“Ensuring federal ministers are required to disclose their diaries, as is the case in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, would ensure transparency around the nature and purpose of meetings with lobbyists, enhancing accountability and public trust.

“Transparency and accountability in politics is not optional; it is essential for maintaining public trust.”

Democracy & Accountability Program Director Bill Browne and Anne Kantor Fellow Vivien Clarke are appearing before the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee public hearing for its inquiry into access to Australian Parliament House by lobbyists today, 8 April between 10am and 12.

/Public Release.