Under section 16 of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (the Act) the Standards in Public Office Commission (the Standards Commission) may produce a Code of Conduct for persons carrying on lobbying activities “with a view to promoting high professional standards and good practice”.
The purpose of this Code is to govern the behaviour of persons carrying on lobbying activities. The diversity and range of persons who may be captured by the scope of the Act presents a challenge in terms of defining a set of shared principles on which a code of conduct might be based. The provisions of the Act can apply to employers; to representative or advocacy bodies; to professional lobbyists or third parties who are being paid to communicate on behalf of a client or other person; and, significantly, to any person communicating about the development or zoning of land. Consequently, persons who might otherwise not regard themselves as lobbyists may find themselves carrying on lobbying activities and have the requirement to register.
The Standards Commission is of the view, however, that this Code sets out principles which can be applied equally to professional lobbyists and to employers, representative / advocacy bodies and individuals alike, and by which persons carrying on lobbying activities may conduct their lobbying activities transparently and ethically.
The Code is not intended to supersede or replace any requirement that a person carrying on lobbying activities may have to comply with the Act or to comply with any other legislation, professional code of conduct or industry rules and regulations which might apply to them.
The Code will come into effect on 1 January 2019. The Code will be reviewed every three years, in keeping with the statutory reviews of the Act provided for in section 2 of the Act.
Lobbying activities are undertaken by many people and organisations in relation to a broad range of matters. Lobbying activities are a legitimate means of access to parliamentary, government and municipal institutions. Lobbying activities contribute to informed decision-making by elected and appointed public officials.
The legitimacy of lobbying is reinforced when lobbying activities are carried out transparently and in an ethical manner. In support of the Act’s objectives to foster transparency and the proper conduct of lobbying activities, this Code of Conduct sets out several principles by which persons carrying on lobbying activities should govern themselves in the course of carrying out lobbying activities, namely:
1) Demonstrating respect for public bodies;
2) Acting with honesty and integrity;
3) Ensuring accuracy of information;
4) Disclosure of identity and purpose of lobbying activities;
5) Preserving confidentiality;
6) Avoiding improper influence;
7) Observing the provisions of the Regulation of Lobbying Act; and
8) Having regard to the Code of Conduct.
While the Act governs communications with Designated Public Officials (that is, Ministers, Ministers of State, and ministerial advisors, elected representatives and certain senior public servants), the principles of the Code should apply to all communications with persons in public office, whether prescribed for the purposes of the Act or not.
The Act, together with this Code of Conduct and associated regulations, guidelines and standards of conduct applicable to Office Holders, elected representatives and public servants,aims to ensure that lobbying activities are conducted in accordance with public expectations of transparency and integrity, and that decisions are made in the public interest. Persons carrying on lobbying activities may also wish to have regard to other guidance material published by the Standards Commission in relation to the Act; to the Transparency Code published by the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform; to the Standards Commission’s Data Protection Policy; and to the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and 2001.