Why do governments fund bodies to lobby them?

I came across this piece by Peter Osborne in the (UK) Daily Telegraph.   He does a great knife job on the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) group.   This was the same group which was caught up a couple of years ago effectively faking signatures on petitions, hoping no one would notice.

The sad thing is that the theme of this article applies in spades to Australia.

Here is some of his story:

ASH is not – like other lobbying groups such as the wonderful Campaign for Real Ale – an emanation of wider civil society. It certainly acts as if it were independent of government, but this is at least in part an illusion. Action on Smoking and Health is what the writer Christopher Snowdon has called, in his superb IEA pamphlet Sock Puppets: How the government lobbies itself and why, a “state-funded activist group”.

This means it is a curious phenomenon. So far as I can tell it enjoys very little public support, and certainly very little public (as opposed to state) funding. As Snowden notes, “Once it became clear that ASH would never become the mass movement its founders envisaged, its staff focused on networking with the political and media elite in London.”

This technique worked well. For the past quarter century, the British government has paid ASH (and other anti-smoking organisations) to lobby the government. As a result, it has appeared for many years as if mass public opinion was pressing for smokers to be turned into pariahs, when in reality the real pressure was coming from a handful of bureaucrats in the Department of Health.

Politicians of Right and Left have been transfixed by these anti-smoking campaigns. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has shown hardly any appetite to challenge the conventional wisdom of his own department, while Luciana Berger, the shadow health minister, is a breathless proselytiser for the anti-smoking lobby. No mainstream politician has dared to challenge the consensus, and only Rothmans-puffing Nigel Farage of Ukip really gets the point.

I believe something is changing in Britain. George Osborne’s Budget, with its tax cut for beer and bingo and permission for people to take charge of their own savings, has caught a wider mood of national rebellion against bossy government. I noticed that when Question Time debated smoking in cars a few weeks ago the biggest round of applause was against the anti-smokers.

This new politics of personal maturity is a problem for Ed Miliband. As Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin show in their important new study of Ukip, Labour has abandoned that sector of the population which used to be known as the working class. Mr Miliband’s Labour instead is in danger of becoming the party of the public-sector workers, the health and safety experts, the Brussels bureaucrats, the quangos and the wider political directorate.

This means that he is in danger of turning into the moral and intellectual heir of Douglas Jay, the post-war cabinet minister who informed the electorate that “the gentleman in Whitehall really does know better what is good for people than the people know themselves”.

This gives the Conservatives an opportunity. They should, of course, acknowledge that the anti-smoking lobby has achieved good things. But it is time for ministers to wake up and ask exactly who it is that ASH and other anti-smoking organisations represent, and why and on what basis the state is paying for them. It’s time to loosen the laws against smoking in pubs. It’s time to treat smokers as grown-ups and not pariahs. It’s time to remember what it means to be a Conservative.

 

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9 Responses to Why do governments fund bodies to lobby them?

  1. Because they offer politicians who do lose their reelection bid a place to continue to draw the kind of salary they want. Serves as a reminder to politicians to take care of the needs of their connected cronies and not their constituents.

    This scenario is an important and poorly understood dynamic being used to try to misportray the opposition and deceitfully magnify the support now in the US over the Common Core education reforms. http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-show-of-support-for-common-core-in-georgia/#respond

    The school board members and legislators and state officials all know they need not listen. Lobbying firms will hire them once voters will not as long as they pushed simpatico policies in office.

  2. Tintarella di Luna

    It’s a scene where they’re all barracudas. I keep referring to Verity Firth when she was education Minister in NSW and was likely (and did) to lose her seat — she granted a large amount of money to the Public Education Foundation — and surrrrprise surrrrrprise surrrprise Sarjint who became the CEO of that Foundation after she did lose her seat?

  3. Gab

    Why do governments fund bodies to lobby them?

    To give them the answers they want to justify their next round of legislation and taxes, of course. It’s all very Yes, Prime Minister in an Orwellian manner.

  4. Natural Instinct

    The Biggest Vested Interest of All: How Government Lobbies to Restrict Individual Rights and Freedom
    Chris Berg, Director, Policy March 2013. IPA

    Executive Summary
    The Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan wrote in The Monthly in March 2012 that:
    Australia’s fair go is today under threat from a new source. To be blunt, the rising power of vested interests is undermining our equality and threatening our democracy.1
    But not all vested interests are private corporations.
    This paper draws attention to two statutory agencies of the Commonwealth Government that have an explicit, legislatively-defined functions to lobby and advocate for public policy change – the Australian National Preventive Health Agency and the Australian Human Rights Commission.
    These two agencies are effectively taxpayer funded lobbyists, embedded in the public policy process, enjoying privileged access to the institutions of government.
    The Australian National Preventative Health Agency (ANPHA) received $57,718,000 in the 2012-13 Federal Budget to “driv[e] the national capacity for change and innovation around preventive health policies and programs.”2
    ANPHA publically advocates and privately lobbies for a wide range of Nanny State restrictions on alcohol, tobacco, and unhealthy food.
    The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) received $23,133,000 in the 2012-13 Federal Budget. One if its primary tasks is to “promote an understanding and acceptance … of human rights in Australia … undertake research and educational programs” and “develop laws, policies and programs”3 for parliament to enact. (Unfortunately, the AHRC does not disclose how much it of its budget it directs towards this task.)
    However the human rights that the AHRC chooses to promote and advocate are highly selective, favouring certain rights above others.
    As well as being policy lobbyists in their own right, AHRC and ANPHA are central to a pattern of relationships between the government and non-government sectors. Taxpayer money is being used to lobby for the allocation of more taxpayer money.
    One-third of the submissions to the Preventative Health Taskforce – which established the Australian National Preventive Health Agency – were from bodies which received large amounts of taxpayer funding.

  5. thefrollickingmole

    Guido Fawkes has great writing )and some results) on this in the UK.

    I fully agree any Quango in Oz should be up for an immediate axe.

  6. “The reforming Hercules, Sir Robert Peel or whoever he is to be, that enters Downing Street, will ask himself this question first of all, What work is now necessary, not in form and by traditionary use and wont, but in very fact, for the vital interests of the British Nation, to be done here? The second question, How to get it well done, and to keep the best hands doing it well, will be greatly simplified by a good answer to that. Oh for an eye that could see in those hideous mazes, and a heart that could dare and do! Strenuous faithful scrutiny, not of what is thought to be what in the red-tape regions, but of what really is what in the realms of Fact and Nature herself; deep-seeing, wise and courageous eyes, that could look through innumerable cobweb veils, and detect what fact or no-fact lies at heart of them,—how invaluable these!”

    Excerpt From: Thomas Carlyle. “Latter-Day Pamphlets.”.

  7. Ed

    Lobbying should be a disqualifier for recieipt of government money.

  8. lotocoti

    Why do governments fund bodies to lobby them?

    It’s not lobbying but rather government funded astro-turfing.
    From the Devil’s Kitchen

    The government funds these groups because they help it create a fake compromise while bypassing public opinion.

  9. AP

    this is a bit like the EDO, which uses government funds to take the government to court to further its anti coal agenda.

    http://www.edonsw.org.au/current_cases

    Thankfully the Abbott government cut all Federal funding in Dec. Backflip Barry OFarrell still funds them though after one of his classic u-turns. The bloke really is a LINO.

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