Why is this important?
Right now, this is how you can check to see whether a company has had any dealings with an MP or Senator:
- Check the Senate and House of Representatives websites for recent declarations.
- Read every PDF listed - including those with illegible handwriting.
- Personally visit the Table Office in Parliament House in Canberra to get archived entries in hard copy form.
- Weep into the mountain of paper now strewn across your desk.
The deeper you dig into the declarations, the bigger the holes. Categories are missing, disclosures are illegible and guidance is scant. For example, should the fact that declared bottles of wine were actually Grange Hermitage be disclosed?
And should they be disclosed in real-time, when potential conflicts arise?
To address the shortcomings prompted by these questions, BURN THE REGISTER aims to support reforms towards a new regime of declarations which is:
- freshly clarified,
- standardised, and
- with a goal for public access and analysis.
In 2011, a report of the Senate Standing Committee of Senators' Interests chaired by Senator Cory Bernardi determined the committee "will continue to investigate" options such as online forms "and will report to the Senate on this matter in due course". That was the most recent report on the matter. For more information on the current regime, see these explanatory notes for statements of registrable interests for Senators and this resolution, last amended in 2008, about the Register of Interests for MPs.
In May 2017, a Senates Estimates hearing revealed that work is underway on a new digital Interests Register. It is unlikely to be ready by the end of 2017, and no commitment has been made for it to be searchable.