Information for Lobbyists
What is lobbying
The Lobbying Code of Conduct (the code) defines lobbying activities as communications with Australian Government representatives in an effort to influence federal government decision-making.
- making or amendment of legislation
- development or amendment of a government policy or program
- awarding of a government contract or grant
- allocation of funding.
If a person undertakes communications, in an effort to influence government decision-making on behalf of a third party, with people including a minister, an assistant minister, their staff or any person employed in the Australian Public Service, they must be registered before such communications take place.
This applies regardless of whether a person styles themselves as a lobbyist.
Certain activities are not considered lobbying activities under the code. These include:
- communicating with a Parliamentary Committee
- providing information in response to a request by a government representative
- communicating with a minister in their capacity as a local member (see the definition of 'lobbying activities' in subsection 5(1) of the code).
The code does not apply to lobbyists who make representations to government (or conduct lobbying activity) on behalf of their employer ('in-house' lobbyists), as these representations are considered sufficiently transparent.
Who must register
Lobbying is a legitimate activity and an important part of the democratic process.
Lobbyists can help individuals and organisations to communicate their views on matters of public importance to the Australian Government. In doing so, they can help to improve outcomes for the individual and the community as a whole.
It is important that Australian Government representatives know whose interests lobbyists are representing.
Any person who acts on behalf of third-party clients for the purpose of lobbying Australian Government representatives must register and comply with the requirements of the code.
The following people and groups are excluded from the code's definition of a 'lobbyist':
- charities and religious organisations
- non-profit organisations and associations
- individuals making representations on behalf of relatives or friends
- members of foreign trade delegations
- people already registered under a Commonwealth scheme regulating certain professions (such as tax agents and customs brokers) who make representations to the government on behalf of clients
- service providers (such as lawyers, doctors, accountants and other service providers) who make occasional representations to the government on behalf of clients in a way that is incidental to the provision of their professional services.
In some cases employees will undertake lobbying activities for the organisation which directly employs them. These are known as 'in-house' lobbyists.
The code does not apply to 'in-house' lobbyists. This is because the interests that these lobbyists represent will be evident to Australian Government representatives.
Principles of engagement
Under section 12 of the code, you must observe the following 5 principles when engaging with Australian Government representatives:
- Use truthful and accurate statements
- No corrupt, dishonest, illegal or unlawful conduct
- Do not make misleading or exaggerated claims
- Keep lobbying activity and personal activity on behalf of a political party separate
- Always make clear that you are a registered lobbyist representing a client, the reason for the meeting and, if applicable, that you are a former Australian Government representative within a prohibition period.
In practice this means that you must:
- Apply to be included on the register, including providing a statutory declaration, details of your organisation's ownership and third party clients.
- Comply with all obligations under the code when engaging with Australian Government representatives.
- Update registration details twice-yearly, within 10 business days of 1 February and 1 July each year.
- Between twice-yearly updates to registration details, notify the department of any changes (including changes to the matters declared in your most recent statutory declaration) as soon as practicable and within 10 business days.
How to register
If you are acting on behalf of third-party clients, whether paid or unpaid, for the purpose of lobbying Australian Government representatives you must be registered and comply with the requirements of the code.
Complete a registration through the register portal.
We will generally process applications within 5 working days after receiving the necessary documentation, including a statutory declaration.
Updating your details
Under the code, you must make sure you keep your details on the register up to date. If there is a change to your details (for example, you take on a new client), you must submit updated details as soon as practicable. This must be no more than 10 business days after the change occurs.
Under subsections 9(1) and (2) of the code you must also confirm or update your details within 10 business days of 1 February and 1 July each year.
As part of the annual 1 July update, you must submit a new statutory declaration (giving effect to subsection 10(1)(b) of the code).
If any matters you declared in your statutory declaration change, you must notify the department as soon as practicable. This must be no more than 10 business days after the change occurs.
If you do not meet these requirements you may be removed from the register.
To update your details, contact the responsible officer within your organisation.
If you are the responsible officer for your organisation, sign in to your account and complete the relevant sections.
Anyone who lobbies Australian Government representatives on behalf of third-party clients must provide a statutory declaration.
Under subsection 10(2) of the code, this statutory declaration must declare that the lobbyist:
- has never been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 30 months or more
- has not been convicted, as an adult, in the last 10 years, of an offence, one element of which involves dishonesty, such as theft or fraud
- is not a member of a state or federal political party executive, state executive or administrative committee (or the equivalent body).
- has not previously committed a serious breach of this code.
A template statutory declaration is available when adding a lobbyist on the register portal. Completed statutory declaration(s) should also be uploaded and submitted using the register portal.
Make sure all sections of the statutory declaration form are completed and that the declaration is witnessed by an appropriately qualified person.
Incomplete statutory declarations may delay the registration process.
Find out more about statutory declarations including how to complete one and who can witness it.
Prohibition on lobbying
Under the code, people who retire from office as a minister or a parliamentary secretary (assistant minister) are prohibited from engaging in lobbying activities relating to any matter that they had official dealings with in their last 18 months in office, for a period of 18 months after they cease to hold office.
The following people are prohibited from engaging in lobbying activities relating to any matter that they had official dealings with in their last 12 months of employment, for a period of 12 months after they cease their employment:
- those employed in the offices of ministers or parliamentary secretaries under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 at adviser-level and above
- members of the Australian Defence Force at colonel-level or above (or equivalent)
- agency heads or persons employed under the Public Service Act 1999 in the Senior Executive Service (or equivalent).
When making initial contact with an Australian Government representative for the purpose of lobbying, a lobbyist who is subject to a temporary prohibition on their lobbying activities must confirm that the proposed lobbying activity is consistent with their prohibition period obligations.
Exemption from listing clients
Under the code, you may be exempt from listing a client on the register if disclosing the relationship could result in speculation about a pending transaction that has not previously been disclosed.
If you rely on this exemption you must advise any Australian Government representative that you are lobbying of this fact and let them know when you anticipate adding the client to the register.
Breaches of the code
A breach of the code can include:
- an unregistered lobbyist attempting to undertake lobbying activities
- a registered lobbyist failing to adhere to the principles of engagement – for example, by engaging in corrupt, dishonest or illegal behaviour or by failing to keep their lobbying activity separate from any involvement they may have with a political party
- a former Australian Government representative engaging in lobbying on prohibited matters within their prohibition period
- a registered lobbyist representing a client not listed on the register
- a registered lobbyist with incomplete information on the register.
A suspected breach can be reported to us through the register.
Our Secretary may remove a lobbyist who has breached the code from the register.
Our Secretary may also decide not to register or re-register a person who has committed a serious breach of the code, for a period of up to 3 months. A serious breach includes unregistered lobbying and breaching the principles of engagement with Australian Government representatives.
Get more information
To find out more about the Lobbying Code of Conduct and the register, read our factsheets:
- Factsheet 1 – Fast facts
- Factsheet 2 – Information for Australian Government representatives and checklist
- Factsheet 3 – Information for lobbyists
You can also contact us directly:
- Email: email@example.com
- Call: 02 6141 2666 (weekdays 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm AEST)
- International call: +61 2 6141 2666 (weekdays 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm AEST)