Telstra tops Canberra lobbyist list

Telstra tops Canberra lobbyist list

Summary: Telstra has emerged as the most active employer of Canberra lobbyists in the IT&T field, although others such as Apple and Google also employ external firms to push their agendas with politicians and government workers.


Telstra has emerged as the most active employer of Canberra lobbyists in the IT&T field, although others such as Apple and Google also employ external firms to push their agendas with politicians and government workers.

(Credit: Australian government)

IT companies are amongst the biggest employers of professional government lobbyists in Canberra, with almost one in five counting a tech firm amongst its clients.

Since the beginning of July, professional lobbyists have had to be listed on the Register of Lobbyists, and maintain up-to-date details of all clients they represent, in order to be able to meet with ministers, departmental officials and other government representatives.

As of yesterday, 186 unique firms were listed on the register. Of those, at least 40 had an IT&T company listed as a current client, research has revealed.

Telstra has emerged as the most active employer of lobbyists in the IT&T field, with Cato Counsel, Enhance Corporate, Hawker Britton and Public Policy Solutions all listing the company as a client, and another three companies employed by its co-owned Foxtel subsidiary and one by its KAZ division.

Other companies who show up on more than one company's disclosure record include Cisco Systems, Dimension Data, EDS, iiNet, Keycorp, Oracle, Philips and Sun Microsystems.

Many lobbyists specialise in a particular policy area, so it's not unusual for a large business to employ specific firms to help promote a particular agenda.

Activity is often particularly heavy during the early months of a newly-elected government, according to lobbyist Col Parks, director of government relations for Gavin Anderson & Company.

"New governments are always good for lobbyists; it's always good for business," Parks said at a public affairs seminar in Canberra this week.

Gavin Anderson lists Apple, Google, Foxtel, Vodafone and Unisys amongst its clients. Another organisation with an A-list roster of tech firms is Government Relations Australia Advisory, which has worked with ARIA, ICANN, Microsoft, eBay and PayPal.

Dominant player
But the dominant provider to the IT industry appears to be John Blackwell & Associates, whose local client roll consists almost entirely of technology and communications firms.

Companies whose agenda it promotes to government include Cisco, Dell, Sony, HDS, APC, Autodesk, Check Point, GE, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Kyocera, Ricoh and Sharp, according to the JBA register entry.

Telecommunications is a particularly active field, with lobbyists being employed by companies of all sizes, ranging from number two provider Optus (which uses Richardson Coutts) to small specialist firms such as NewSat (on the books of BartonDale Partners).

"New governments are always good for lobbyists; it's always good for business," Parks said at a public affairs seminar in Canberra this week.

New governments are always good for lobbyists.

Lobbyist Col Parks

Even organisations which themselves exist largely to promote a particular industry, such as the Australian Information Industry Association and the Australian Computer Society also employ professional lobbyists.

While the emergence of the register has given a high-tech sheen to the practice of pushing for policy changes, lobbyists say that it has not altered their day-to-day work. "I can't imagine any official agreeing to see a lobbyist without knowing who they were there representing," Parks said. "Governments are governments, and I think talking with them is very much the same."

IT accounts for a healthy percentage of the registered lobbyists' business, but the total size of the industry is hard to determine.

In his book Lobbying In Australia, Julian Fitzgerald estimated that there were around 1,000 lobbying organisations active federally, though that number included industry organisations which are not required to register under the current scheme.

The register and an associated code of conduct were launched in May, with the stated goal of ensuring the political decision-making process was more transparent and that federal politicians could not resign and move instantly into highly paid lobbying roles that utilised their political contacts. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had foreshadowed its introduction in December 2007.

What do you think about the lobbying activities of technology companies? Post your thoughts below this article.

Topics: Telcos, Cisco, Networking, Telstra

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  • How surprising!

    I must admit that it came as a complete shock that the big "T" for Terrific would do something so manipulative. Ok, complete lie. I just wanted to begin with a sarcastic notion & did so.

    That Telstra would put so much funding into manipulating Government as opposed to providing a cost-effective & speedie service is absolutely no surprise at all, to anyone!

    SCUM!!! Screw the board & throw them all in a big pit & cover with cement. They're all scum.
  • Long time Rex

    For a while there I thought you had kicked the bucket, how disappointed I am, o.k. I thought I would start with the inner thought & did so.

    How much of a big surprise that the single largest company in the most politically sensitive industry in this country just happens to to the lobbyist list. It's a bit like the most popular car company being attacked for using the most fuel in this country, well derr what do you expect they would do the most kilometers each year.

    This is simply another beat up ZDNet story and it shows your level of intelligence that such a stupid story would bring you out of hiding.
  • Telstra Hoorah!

    I'd just like to point out as the only company defending true blue aussie values against the tyranny of a government bending to 'boptus's' foregin masters its no surprise that telstra must employ the most companies in an attempt to pursue fairness in the telecommunications market, i mean look at the de-regulated market of mobiles, where competition exists, telstra thrives, building a next generation network that supplies broadband to the bush! how true blue aussie and all telstra is trying to do is enact the same enviroment on PSTN and stopping the 'leeches' free ride
  • Hooray for Telstra!

    Daryn I couldn't have said it any better myself. Telstra is just defending its true blue Australian values, being the Australian icon that it is. Who cares if of Telstra 35% is foreign owned and run by Americans, who pay no regard to the opinions of Aussie shareholders and are only interested in making a quick buck before heading back home. After all the Americans are our friends and allies, so we can trust them can't we? Like Sydney I fought beside the Yanks back in the Great War and I feel we owe it to let them exploit us for all its worth.
  • Huzzah for Telstra!

    35% foreign, thats 65% than your foreign masters boptus! I'm glad to see knoptus is paying you well anonymous... if that is your real name, and i respect americans way more who try to take our aussie company in a better, fairer direction, despite your foreign masters trying any tatics possible to erode service (exporting jobs), boost profits (free rides on telstras infastructure) and never taking the inititive (telstra covers 99% of pop, oo optus now wants to copy)
  • A beter, fairer direction for who exactly?

    Your knowledge and balanced opinion is astounding! (note the sarcasm)

    In other posts I see you have said Australians should be happy to pay more to keep the profits here, but do you care to explain where exactly these profits go? Over 95% of the population are not Telstra shareholders and could not care less about Telstra's profits. Instead I think it's quite safe to assume that most Australians would rather pay less for the services they receive and if the truth beknown the same would probably also apply to the majority of mum & dad Telstra shareholders.

    And the only reason NextG covers 98% (allegedly but not substantiated to be 99% and disputed by the National Farmers Federation) of the population is because Telstra was given a handout of approximately $460 million from the government to build the CDMA network. NextG was built using CDMA towers and backhaul. Telstra's competitors are building their own networks from scratch which includes backhaul and no government aid. Whether you want to call it copying or not is completely beside the point because if you had no vested interest in Telstra then all it will do is benefit you; whether you're looking for a better deal, or even simply plan remain as a Telstra customer due to the fruits of competition your choice will be greater and your prices will be lower.

    The High Court of Australia disagrees with your free rides comment, and it's a shame to see you take Phil Burgess verbal diarrhea as gospel.
  • I heart Telstra

    $460 million of handout? but during the various public floats of telstra the governement has made well over $460 million of profit, so surely that counts as paying the government back? as for your shareholder jibe how dare you speak out against all the hard working mum and dad working family's that hold telstra shares, thats as aussie as you get,. im sure your portfolio is full of feelgood shares like renewable energy and boptus, so cut your dreadies, put down the pipe, get a real job and go buy some man shares like telstra!