Government IT procurement, how tech giants are taxed and the upcoming copyright reforms are just some of the major technology issues Australia’s leading political lobbyists are chattering about as they position their clients for a tipped change in government.
Often reviled as sinister and opaque, federal government lobbying firms have become prominent, and some argue more helpful to decision makers, under reforms launched by the Rudd government in 2007.
The reforms forced lobbying firms to register their existence, their clients and their main personnel if they were to have any dealings with the government. The register reveals there are some 259 firms seeking to cultivate federal regulators and politicians, but it excludes in-house lobbyists from tech giants such Telstra, Microsoft, Google and IBM.
Furthermore it exempts industry associations such as the AIIA and Communications Alliance, which have major lobbying activities, as well as large-scale firms such as Ernst and Young that continue to take advantage of the exemption for accounting and law firms to conduct lobbying activities without public scrutiny.
Based on the register, as well as discussions with leading lobby firms, the following are the current leaders in tech lobbying:
Telstra: In addition to having substantial in-house resources of 30 or more advisers in its regulatory and government affairs unit, the major telecommunications provider also engages no fewer than five separate lobby firms for additional advice including Bush Consulting, Public Policy Solutions, Parker & Partners Public Affairs, RedStick Strategic Communications and Butcher and Co.
Microsoft: Estimated to have up to 10 relations staff eyeing state and federal procurement deals along with broader regulatory concerns, Microsoft is notable for not using any of the lobbying firms on the federal register.
IBM Australia: Also thought to have a substantial in-house lobby component and not represented by any of the firms on the lobby register. According to one insider, the task often coincides with broad government account management as part of its deals with government.
Google Australia: Is thought to have an in-house staff of three. In May Google Australia poached the Prime Minister's senior adviser, Damian Kassabgi, to manage its public policy affairs.
Read on for a list of the major lobbying firms and their substantial tech clients…