Saving the taxpayer from lobbyists

An Australian State is legislating to stop lobby groups using taxpayers money to try to change government policy. As far as I know this is the first attempt to restrict the ‘government-lobbying-government’ problem that so bedevils modern politics. According to this article by Chris Snowdon, the State of Queensland is to stop NGO’s who receive more than 50% of their income from government from advocating legislative change. In other words either you’re a charity trying to achieve good outcomes (such as curing cancer, for example) in which case you may merit government support, or else you’re a political organisation with an agenda, in which case you don’t.

Another way of looking at it is that organisations in receipt of government funds should follow civil service rules of political impartiality.

Here the problem has always been muddled up with ‘charitable’ status. Think tanks have had to go through the hoops (quite rightly) to demonstrate impartiality if they want to get the tax advantages of ‘charitable’ status. Meanwhile certain health ‘charities’ seem to spend most of their time lobbying government with their political agendas to ban this or that instead of curing people.

David Cameron, with his professed dislike of lobbying, would do well to follow Queensland’s lead.

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