Watchdog wants lobbyists to leave their names
Queensland’s new Integrity Commissioner says in-house lobbyists should have to declare their contact with government ministers.
In-house lobbyists such as those from the Property and Queensland Resources Councils, company directors, managers and executives do not have to declare their meetings with elected officials, despite the clear opportunity to expert influence in a way not available to the regular citizen.
But the State Government has ruled out including each case of lobbyist contact on the lobbyist register.
Integrity Commissioner Richard Bingham has had his first meeting with the parliamentary committee that oversees his office.
He says believed the public interest would be served by reporting all government-lobby links, but that the Premier is more focused on the need to balance openness with the need to function “efficiently and effectively”.
In a paper from just before departing the role, former Integrity Commissioner Dr Solomon said in-house lobbyists were “extremely influential”, calling for transparency about their access to ministers and public servants.
“The government has refused to extend lobbying rules to cover this kind of lobbying, rejecting a number of submissions by me, and a unanimous recommendation of an all-party parliamentary committee,” he said in his paper, ‘Ministerial access and the public trust’.
New Commissioner Mr Bingham agreed with his predecessor.
“I know the government has considered that and I know that the Premier has advised me that from his perspective there needs to be balance in the obligations of openness on the one hand and the need for government business to be conducted efficiently and effectively on the other,” he told the committee.
“I readily understand and accept that perspective but, as I say, my personal view about it is that there is always benefit in reviewing the way in which these matters operate.
“My general take about all of these things is that Queensland has a well-deserved reputation for leadership in relation to these issues and you only need to look at other jurisdictions around the country to see how topical they are.
“It would be unfortunate if we didn't learn from what's evolving in other places and take those lessons on board for the purposes of ensuring the integrity framework in this state is as good as it possibly can be.”
The rules about what ministers do and do not have to declare were changed when the LNP came to power in 2012.
Questions have since been raised after it was revealed Energy Minister Mark McArdle held a fundraiser in a power company's boardroom.
The current rules meant he did not have to declare the fundraiser, so it was only revealed through right-to-information documents.
Minister McArdle claims to be part of the “most open and transparent government in the whole nation”.