Great item in Crikey today on lobbying taken from DragOnista's blog.
There are two important themes in the item, the first is that lobbying is strategic (meaning long term) and that it is both good for democracy and poorly understood.
On the strategic nature, it highlights that lobbying is multi-faceted.
Effective lobbying is based on an exceptionally good working knowledge of three things: politics, policy and business. That’s why most lobby groups have experts in each of these areas.
Even more important for effective lobbying is an understanding of how these three elements can align, interact or conflict.
Lobbyists use knowledge of this dynamic to ply their trade. In an ideal world, the policy they are lobbying for should satisfy the minister’s need for smart politics, the department’s need for sound policy, and their own members’ need for a continued license to operate.
Getting all three to align, good politics, good policy and good for business is often hard. It is made harder when the sponsor of the lobbying can only think of their own interest - like the old GM line "what's good for my company is good for the country". Telling politicians and officials that a certain line is important for your ability to make a profit is not usually a winning strategy.
That said both the politics and the policy credentials of a position can be fashioned over time. The frustration most lobbyists suffer from is clients or employers whose request begins "I need this now", but have no answer when you seek their view on how they want the external environment structured in three years time.
And lobbying isn't just by business - it comes from many sources.
The profession of lobbying is certainly not rocket science, but it’s a nuanced practice nonetheless. It’s an activity that admittedly occurs under the radar, but which bears little resemblance to the media depictions of shiny suits trailing into ministers’ offices threatening ad campaigns if they don’t get their wicked way.
A final important point to remember is that lobbyists represent a much broader range of interests than just big business. Equally large and influential lobby groups also represent pharmacists, teachers, independent shop owners, superannuants, and the environment movement for example.
Lobbyists have a legitimate part to play in a vibrant democracy such as ours. This would be better accepted if the media made a greater effort to understand it.
Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est