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Under the influence: Premier bows to calls for crackdown on lobbying

Politics

The Palaszczuk Government has bowed to pressure to reform the way it deals with lobbyists following a storm of criticism over Labor figures turned lobbyists having disproportionate access to ministers and other decision makers.

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said her government would tighten up the existing lobbyists’ register to ensure it contained more information and make everyone but administrative staff employed by a lobbying firm declare themselves a lobbyist.

Lobbyists would also have to contact a minister’s chief-of-staff before anyone else in the minister’s office, with the chief of staff then deciding how the lobbying activity should be dealt with.

The changes effectively pre-empt the release this week of what is expected to be a highly critical report of the government’s practices and record on integrity matters by former QUT vice-chancellor Peter Coaldrake.

“If you are working for a lobbying firm and you may be called an adviser, a consultant, a communication specialist, you will now be deemed to be a lobbyist,” Palaszcuk said.

“We are expanding that definition of lobbying which I think is very important.

“There will be no lobbying activity for those under a senior adviser in ministerial staff, I need it to be at the highest levels of government.”

The announcement also follows revelations by the Crime and Corruption Commission that it was concerned about a surge in lobbying since the government was re-elected in 2020.

Coaldrake is due to hand down his final report into government accountability and integrity on Tuesday.

His interim report in April found lobbying is widespread, escalating and lacks proper regulation.

Coaldrake said he would consider steps to ensure the ministerial code of conduct “has teeth and is observed” in his final report.

The CCC said its investigations show Queensland government decisions “can be inappropriately influenced”.

Donors, lobbyist clients and people with political links have won government contracts, project approvals, grants or subsidies, it said.

“The corruption risks associated with influencing practices … have intensified,” the report said.

The commission said some groups and individuals also have disproportionate access to the government and may be influencing decisions.

One in 10 public servants had witnessed or suspected people from the private sector pressuring a politician, the commission said.

About 14 per cent had witnessed or suspected people from the private sector pressuring public servants.

The CCC said there was a further risk of improper influence over contracts and positions associated with the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.

-with AAP

 

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