Pi News –
More than 2,000 people have been granted rare access to parliament to lobby politicians and their staff, but the public has no idea who they are.
Sponsored tickets, famous for their orange color, allow the holder to enter the Houses of Parliament at any time and without an escort.
Independent Senator David Pocock questioned the Department of Parliamentary Services about the number of people holding such permits.
As of December 2023, there were 2,002 Orange Pass holders, an increase of 211 in less than a year.
Passes require the approval of an MP or senator and are valid for three years, giving pass holders access to the halls of power throughout the area and around the clock.
One deputy sponsored permits for 45 people – none of whom are available for verification in the state registry.
Independent senators, including David Pocock, criticized the authorizations for giving lobbyists unfettered access to federal policymakers.
“The problem is, no one knows who these sponsored passengers are,” Senator Pocock told a Senate hearing on Monday.
Some may be family members of congressmen and senators, others may be union officials, lawyers or lobbyists.
“It’s not right that Australians don’t know who’s in the building they’re paying to lobby their representatives,” Senator Pocock told AAP.
“Transparency about who has a permit and who issued it is the minimum Australians deserve and demand.”
The senator also asked for information on the number of people who entered Parliament on weekends, non-sessions or non-sitting weeks.
Lobbyists “setting up shop” in the building were also raised by an ACT senator who was told the rooms were not available to political or parliamentary staff as they were used for advocacy meetings.
Robert Stefanik, secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services, said his agency did not handle the bookings for those seats and could not comment.
A parliamentary inquiry previously heard that the department did not record the networks that represented individual passport holders, but instead relied on passport holders to update their details if they changed organisations.
At the time, Senator Pocock said he was sponsored by a man who then went into the tobacco industry and continued to use his card to gain access to Parliament.
An upcoming Senate inquiry into the lobbying industry will examine checks and balances that include transparency, including the patronage system.