Who’s in the room? Special interest influence on policy – Melbourne

How much influence do special interest groups have on policy making in Australia? This Policy Pitch event will look at the different ways special interest groups – including business, unions and not-for-profits – seek influence over policy. Do political donations buy access? Which groups lobby the most? And who spends the most on public campaigns?

Our panel will debated what (if anything) needs to change in the way we regulate access, influence and money in politics.


Catherine McGovern is a Principal of Evaluate, an economics consultancy principally focused on social policy, including healthcare, ageing and education. Catherine has extensive experience in government relations and public affairs with a focus on communicating complex ideas and forming and delivering policy outcomes. Catherine has spent her career working in and with government as a consultant and policy adviser. She has worked in the health industry for almost twenty years, including at Medibank and GlaxoSmithKline. Before this, she was an adviser to the Howard Government in the industry portfolio and earlier worked in an investment bank. She is a board member of Melbourne City Mission, a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a member of the Medicines Australia Advisory Council.

Serena Lillywhite is the Chief Executive Officer at Transparency International Australia. She has more than 17 years’ experience in corporate accountability and responsible business conduct. She is well known for her work on the social dimensions of international business, particularly: governance, corruption, human rights, labour rights, resettlement and gender. Serena has advised governments and the OECD on policy issues associated with extractives, financial services, supply chains, taxation, transparency, and corruption. Serena has previously worked at Oxfam and the Brotherhood of St Laurence. She has lived and worked in China as the Director of the RMIT campus, and in Cambodia, as well as other countries in the Asia pacific region, and countries of Africa.

Dr Lindy Edwards is a political scientists from the University of New South Wales. She has worked as an economic adviser in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, a press gallery journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald and as Head of Policy for Natasha Stott Despoja when she was leader of the Australian Democrats. Since returning to academia she been a Fellow of the Australian Prime Ministers Centre, the Centre for Policy Development and a board member of the think-tank Catalyst. Her books include the bestseller ‘How to argue with an Economist: Re-opening political debate in Australia’, Cambridge University Press, ‘The Passion of Politics: the role of ideology in Australia’, Allen & Unwin and ‘Neo-Liberalism: Beyond the Free Market’ Edwards & Elgar. She is the author of the influential ‘Dark Money’ report on political donations in Australia. She is currently writing a book on lobbying and corporate power in the Australian democracy.

Danielle Wood is a Program Director at the Grattan Institute. Her research and advocacy efforts focus on tax and budget policy, intergenerational inequality and institutional reform. Danielle previously worked as a Principal Economist at the ACCC, a Senior Consultant at NERA Economic Consulting and as a Senior Research Economist at the Productivity Commission. She is the National Chair of the Women in Economics Network and she sits on the Central Council of the Economics Society of Australia.

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