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

How much influence do special interest groups have on policy making in Australia? This Forward Thinking 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 debated what (if anything) needs to change in the way we regulate access, influence and money in politics.


A J Brown is Professor of Public Policy & Law in the Centre for Governance & Public Policy, Griffith University; a boardmember of Transparency International and Transparency International Australia; former senior investigation officer for the Commonwealth Ombudsman; former Associate to Justice G E Tony Fitzgerald AC, Queensland Court of Appeal; Member of the Commonwealth Government’s Ministerial Expert Advisory Panel on Whistleblowing; and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.  He currently leads the Australian Research Council Linkage Project ‘Strengthening Australia’s national integrity system: priorities for reform’, conducting Australia’s second National Integrity System Assessment.

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.

Suggested reading list: