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When politicians become lobbyists, they really can be bad for your health

Photo: How former pollies are bad for your health
Think you are sick to death of politicians? When they later become lobbyists they really can be bad for your health, a new study says.

Some Australians may be sick to death of politicians but when they later become lobbyists it can be very bad for your health.

That's according to new research into what happens when politicians retire from parliament and walk into plum jobs barracking for big alcohol, food and gambling organisations.

"Industry's privileged access to government threatens unbiased policy making and creates an imbalance between the influence of industry and evidence-based public health advocacy," says the research in Public Health Research and Practice, released on Wednesday.
Researchers believe delays in implementing alcohol warning labels and a lack of gambling reform despite strong public support are two areas where industry influence has undermined evidence-based public health policy.

Politicians and staffers using connections they gained in government to lobby for industries have become so thick on the ground that tighter rules and penalties should be brought in, the research says.

Co-author of the report Professor Peter Miller said current lobbying rules are flawed.

"It's an appalling lack of transparency," he told AAP.

"I think the public are getting sick of it. I think our politicians should be ashamed."

Bans on information sharing, cooling-off periods before former politicians jump into new gigs and even a federal anti-corruption body to ensure transparency are warranted, the study says.

In Australia, federal ministers are prevented from lobbying for 18 months, while for other members it is a year.

In the US and Canada cooling off periods are five years, which is longer than an election cycle.

Prof Miller supports a federal corruption body after experiencing the power lobbyists wield.

"We need to be monitoring these things at a state and federal level. We need decent laws to give it some teeth as well," said the academic who studies alcohol-fuelled violence.

"Maybe we should stop selling out."

He said one failing of the current system is that lobbyist registers do not list the industries they represent.

The lists also do not include in-house lobbyists who work with companies or trade unions.

Politicians who join company boards after leaving politics aren't considered lobbyists either, Prof Miller said.

He said an unpopular solution to what he describes as corruption was to pay politicians more.

"I'm actually in favour of properly paying politicians and giving them decent pensions," Prof Miller said.

"Because if we don't, they're completely open to corruption."


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