TIME TO OUT LOBBYISTS WHO FLY UNDER THE RADAR

FROM Jacob Saulwick City Editor SMH …

We’ve seen ‘em on the ground … lobbyists attach themselves ‘to do good’ campaigns …

FROM THE COMMENTS …

As someone has suggested … ‘commercial in confidence’ is a bogeyman with commercial interests overriding the public’s right to know that everything is above board …

AND

If a person is named as likely to come into the realm of ‘public influencer’ … then shouldn’t their ‘public diary’ be public property?  All day, every day?

FURTHER …

No federal ICAC
for some reason the Liberals oppose it
nothing to hide
nothing to fear

I am surprised 100% of people don’t think this government is in business for anyone but themselves and their mates.

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Time to out lobbyists who fly under the radar

Jacob Saulwick
Jacob Saulwick

City Editor July 6, 2019

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Almost three in four Australians think people in government “look after themselves”.

More than one in two believe government is run “for a few big interests”.

The lack of trust represented by these viewpoints is increasing and, according to a paper recently prepared for the Independent Commission Against Corruption, is “likely to undermine support for representative democracy as a system of government”.

*Gladys Berejiklian’s administration has an opportunity to address this.

One way trust in representative government erodes is if the community believes its representatives do not tell them the real reasons for which contentious decisions are made. To this end, bodies such as the Independent Commission Against Corruption have recommended, and governments have adopted, to some degree, rules making attempts to influence public officials a bit transparent.

James Packer with Lawrence Ho, the Macau casino magnate who plans to buy a 19.9 per cent of Crown from Packer for $1.8 billion.
James Packer with Lawrence Ho, the Macau casino magnate who plans to buy a 19.9 per cent of Crown from Packer for $1.8 billion.CREDIT:SEE CAPTION INFO

But there remain huge holes in the methods used to promote disclosure of lobbying practices in NSW.

Take a high-profile example: why was a company controlled by one of the country’s richest people able to build a luxury hotel and apartment tower on a virgin slab of publicly owned harbourside land? Not to mention gaining a casino licence for that site without public tender?

Maybe it was simply that the time was right for James Packer and Crown’s excellent idea. But maybe a 2012 meeting between Packer and then premier Barry O’Farrell – at Alan Jones’ apartment – played some role in conditioning O’Farrell’s support for Packer’s Barangaroo complex.

Or maybe that meeting was completely inconsequential. Either way, the fact that the meeting was never disclosed until last year, in Damon Kitney’s authorised biography of Packer, hardly bolsters community confidence in the decision-making process.

(The biography does not say whether the meeting occurred before or after Packer first unveiled his harbourside casino idea, which O’Farrell greeted with enthusiasm the following day. O’Farrell and a Crown representative did not respond to requests for comment. And to be fair to all involved, the hotel and casino project subsequently underwent the scrutiny of multiple independent government reviews, including ones chaired by David Murray and former Supreme Court judge Ken Handley, as well as numerous planning inquiries.)

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Billionaire Lawrence Ho.
JAMES PACKER

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In any case, this is not a question of potential corruption. It is a question of whether a meeting may have amounted to lobbying – and the public’s right to know about such meetings involving politicians or public officials.

And if a similar meeting occurred today, it is unclear if the public would get to know about it.

Former premier Mike Baird introduced a system by which government ministers must disclose their meeting diaries.

But would a private lunch at Jones’ home be recorded in the public diaries? Maybe, maybe not.

A register of lobbyists is another method that has been put in place to promote transparency in decision-making. But neither Packer, as a direct representative of his company, nor Jones, who was a relentless champion of the Barangaroo casino, would qualify as lobbyists for the purpose of the register. You might need to walk around with a large “L” around your neck to trouble the lobbyist register.

For its part, the ICAC has long thought more should be done. The last time the anti-corruption body conducted an investigation into lobbying in NSW, in 2010, it made 17 recommendations.

Five have been implemented.

In 2014 legal academics Yee-Fui Ng from Monash University and Joo-Cheong Tham from Melbourne University conducted a report for the Electoral Commission about the regulation of lobbying in NSW. Of the 22 recommendations in their report, six have been implemented.

Now the ICAC is looking at the issue again. It commissioned a research report by the Melbourne academics, from which the above figures about the lack of trust in government derive. Late this month or in early August it will start to hold public hearings about what might be done to improve the regulation of lobbying conduct and transparency in NSW.

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A lobbyist is defined as anyone who lobbies (for financial reward) on behalf of a third party.
POLITICAL DONATIONS

Experts fear lobbyists can get around donor ban to political parties

*A few themes are likely to emerge. One is that the definition of lobbyist is too narrow. There is a good case that people who work in other professions in which government decision-making is vital – I’m thinking property development – should be better captured by lobbying regulations, even if they do not class themselves as “lobbyists”.

The recent ICAC inquiry into the former Canterbury Council, which is yet to make its findings, showed how developers and planning consultants working on their behalf can persistently make their case to officials, and yet not be caught up in the disclosure obligations on lobbyists. There’s a hole here to be filled.

A second theme is that there should be more of a positive onus on officials to disclose relevant contacts.

Let’s say a public official meets someone advocating for their interests, and it later emerges that this official could influence those interests. Why should they not tell the world about that meeting once the opportunity for the official to influence those interests has arisen? We want officials – politicians or public servants – to be talking to people in the real world.

But in the absence of a positive culture of disclosure, it is too easy to think the worst when they do. We want some openness about what influences them.

ICAC expects to issue its final report into lobbying regulation in October.

Jacob Saulwick

Jacob Saulwick is City Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald.

SOURCE: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/time-to-out-lobbyists-who-fly-under-the-radar-20190607-p51vfb.html

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Berejiklian’s Moves Quickly to Consolidate Power and Silence Dissent

Berejiklian stinks billboard

Berejiklian’s Moves Quickly to Consolidate Power and Silence Dissent

BY ▪︎ PAUL GREGOIRE ▪︎ 11/04/2019


The Berejiklian government seems to have taken its election win as an indication from the NSW electorate that it has carte blanche over its governing of the state, as in a little over a week after its return to office, it made some unprecedented moves to consolidate power.

Under the Administrative Arrangements (Administrative Changes—Public Service Agencies) Order 2019 – which was made on 2 April – the returned Liberal Nationals government concentrated the state’s public services into eight departments, down from ten.

Significantly, the Coalition scrapped the Office of the Environment and Heritage (OEH), which was the department tasked with state environmental protection oversight. The environment portfolio will be swallowed up by NSW Planning: an ominous greenlight for developers.

And the soon-to-be formed Planning and Industry super-department will also be incorporating the Office of Local Government. This will obviously see concerns raised by local councils in regard to projects backed by planning minister Rob Stokes or industry minister John Barilaro firmly silenced.

The premier told reporters last Friday that the merging of the various departments is all about delivering “better services, better infrastructure, in a more timely manner”. And Berejiklian has explained little else. But, why should she? She’s been handed a blank cheque to do as she pleases.

Gagging opposing voices

“Subsuming local government and the environment in planning will degrade their capacity to effectively respond within government in those areas,” said NSW Greens MP Jamie Parker, who was just voted in for a third term as member for Balmain.

“The result of this will be a lessening of the voice for the environment in government,” the Greens planning spokesperson continued, “and the marginalisation of local government when it comes to planning considerations.”

According to Parker, local councils “have long been a thorn in the side” of the NSW government. But now, with the powers vested in the Local Government Act 1993 falling into the hands of the planning minister, the voice and power of local councils will be lost in the state bureaucracy.

Opposing your own

And at a time when climate change has become a primary issue for the Australian public, Gladys has come out swinging, making changes that ensure any environmental considerations will be superseded by the interests of infrastructure projects or the priorities of industry.

“The Office of the Environment is the voice for the environment in government,” Mr Parker told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. “By loading it into planning, as a tiny element of this mega bureaucracy, means their voice will be diminished, and their independence will be jeopardised.”

In the past, the OEH often played a key dissenting role in opposing planning projects that threatened environmental degradation. However, in order to maintain that role, those advocating for environment will now be speaking out against their own senior management.

Exterminating Blinky

The Berejiklian government is well aware of the stifling effect that engulfing environment within planning will have. Indeed, the Coalition government has long seen environmental concerns as a hindrance to its neoconservative agenda.

In 2016, the NSW government repealed the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, while the Native Vegetation Act 2003 was dropped the following year. This resulted in much weaker environmental assessments and protections, particularly on private land.

The easing of the native vegetation protections led to a daily clearance rate of about fourteen football fields of koala habitat. In 2016-17, 2,845 hectares of NSW forest and woodland was cleared, while over 2017-18, this jumped to 8,194 hectares.

And while these measures appease Liberal National backers, they’re also causing the eradication of the koala. It’s dwindling numbers have led organisations like the World Wildlife Fund to call for it to be listed as an endangered species for fears it could become extinct in this state by 2050.

Elevating the risk

Another development that has raised eyebrows is the merging of the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) with Justice. This will bring together those who deliver services to marginalised people with those who administer the state’s correctional facilities.

“It’s very problematic,” said NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge. “Because we want to break that institutional link between FACS and Justice, in the sense of young people moving into out-of-home care, then into juvenile justice and graduating into adult prison.”

Mr Shoebridge explained that there’s an “undoubtable link” between children who are forcibly removed from their families subsequently getting caught in the revolving door of the criminal justice system.

The Greens justice spokesperson has grave concerns that “this government, and the ministers that they’ve chosen, are going to further entrench that cycle”, rather than work collaboratively to break the link between out-of-home care and prison.

The continuing stolen generations

And again, its First Nations peoples that will disproportionately bear the brunt of any increased risk the merger of FACS and Justice will produce. Currently, around 37 percent of young people in out-of-home care are Indigenous, while they only account for 5 percent of the state population under 18.

Last November, the Berejiklian government served up further injustice to the First Peoples of this land, when it passed legislation that requires a decision to be made as to whether a child in out-of-home care can be returned to their family within 24 months, and if not, they’re to be adopted out.

Grandmothers Against Removals founding member Aunty Hazel Collins explained in February that the forced adoption laws don’t “allow families the time frame to adequately fight through the judicial system to get their children back.” And she described this as a form of cultural genocide.

Return of the conservatives

Mr Shoebridge further said that he fears the merging of the departments reveals that the Berejiklian government “is even more out of touch, with a handful of extraordinarily powerful, but distant, ministers, directing a very complex machine, which is the NSW government”.

And with another four years up her sleeve, and highly opposed projects such as WestConnex and the Allianz Stadium redevelopment forging ahead, who knows what Berejiklian has next in her sights. But, one thing is for sure, these mergers have cleared the way to make her government’s plans easier.

“It also deskills the public service. It removes critical checks and balances,” Mr Shoebridge warned. “With this push for an efficient, centralised administration, we know from experience, it’s individual people with their individual needs who end up getting run over.”

SOURCE: https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/berejiklians-moves-quickly-to-consolidate-power-and-silence-dissent/

 

 

 

The Seventh-day Adventist Church, South Pacific Head Office. The church is proposing to develop apartments on Fox Valley Road, Wahroonga. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Questions raised over churches’ ability to become property developers without paying tax

AUSTRALIA will rue missed chance to cut BANKS down to size

OPINION

Australia will rue missed chance to cut banks down to size

Commission addressed misconduct but not underlying problems in an over-mighty sector

 

Australia’s banking industry has long failed to act in the best interests of clients.   © Reuters

 

The financial market’s verdict on the Australian Banking Commission’s report into misconduct in the sector was a large rally in bank shares.

There was widespread relief that the recommendations will not hit bank profits, beyond the relatively modest costs of client compensation and other remedies already factored into forecast earnings.

But, in truth, this is a missed opportunity for a much-needed root-and-branch reform of Australia’s over-concentrated banking sector. The power of over-mighty banks, which exploited customers relentlessly, has been largely left in place. The report offers catharsis to the victims, but it fails to address the underlying issues.

In more than a year of sometimes riveting televised hearings, Commissioner Kenneth Hayne, a former High Court judge, examined predatory lending, poor risk management, commission-driven sales cultures, inadequacies in dealing with customer complaints and regulatory failures.

The report outlines six principles to guide future behavior: obeying the law, avoiding misleading conduct, acting fairly, providing services fit for purpose, delivering services with reasonable care and skill, and acting in the best interests of clients.

 

But, despite its well-intentioned concern about culture, the report makes little effort to define or measure these terms.

Worse, these proposals ultimately deal with the symptoms of the industry’s malaise, not the fundamental causes. The commission’s full name gives the game away — it is the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (my italics). It should simply have been the Royal Commission into the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

The first and biggest problem is that, financial services, especially banking, is large and highly concentrated.

The market capitalization of the four major banks, among the largest Australian listed companies, is approximately 360 billion Australian dollars, a quarter of the stock market’s total value.

Total assets are A$3.6 trillion, around double gross domestic product. The compensation costs arising from the misconduct scandal — estimated at A$6 billion — are just a fifth of annual profits of over A$30 billion.

Australian lenders are among the most profitable banks globally, measured on return on equity. As of 2016, Australian bank profits equaled 2.9% of gross domestic product, the highest among major economies. This compares to 1.2% in the U.S., 1.4% in Japan and 0.9% in the U.K.

The market share of the largest five banks is over 80%; only lenders in Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands are higher. The figure is around 40% in the U.S., Germany and the U.K. and slightly higher in Japan and France.

The oligopolistic structure is not accidental. While deregulation, beginning in the 1980s, was beneficial in removing credit rationing and improving customer choice, it did not increase competition.

The authorities allowed consolidation, arguing that larger banks were stronger and easier to regulate, a policy criticized in a recent report by the government’s Productivity Commission.

The dominant banks exercise significant market power. This is particularly true for personal finance, as over 60% of loans are residential mortgages, the world’s highest proportion. The banking report does not make any recommendations regarding the overconcentration which pave the way for misconduct. It does not address the pricing of financial services.

Next, conflicts of interest result from a vertically-integrated banking model, where firms manufacture, sell and advise on their own products. There is an incentive to promote an institution’s own products and services, especially those with high fees and sales commissions.

The industry has long resisted any legal requirement to act in the best interests of clients.

Despite specifically identifying conflict of interest and greed as key causes of misconduct, the report does not make any recommendation on separating product sales and advice.

Other than proposing bans on some commissions paid to mortgage brokers and financial advisers, there is little that targets remuneration practices with underlying conflicts of interest.

The Commission does little to address pay issues in general. The report adopts the generous recommendations on bankers’ pay put forward in a report commissioned by banks themselves via the industry lobby group — the Australian Bankers’ Association.

Given the Commission’s concern about conflicts of interest, this is puzzling.

Kenneth Hayne’s counsel did not focus on structural issues.   © AAP/AP

 

 

Third, the principal regulators are under-resourced and underpaid, making it difficult to attract and retain experts. Political interference, driven by high-level lobbying by donors to political parties, inhibits enforcement. Fearful of unsuccessful high-profile prosecutions, regulators favor negotiated settlements.

The Royal Commission seeks additional powers for existing regulators ignoring its own concerns about enforcement and creates a super regulator to oversee existing bodies. But this will not correct the underlying weaknesses.

Fourth, the regulatory approach emphasizes nonintrusive rules. A caveat emptor (buyer beware) system relies on disclosure to protect consumers. The risks disclosed, usually in lengthy legalese, are often incomprehensible. Customers are left with little choice but to accept the terms dictated to them. The Royal Commission does not address these issues.

Fifth, deregulation underestimates the problems of combining financially illiterate customers needing simple savings accounts, loans and risk management products with incentives for bankers to sell other, high-risk, services.

Banks answerable to shareholders seek to maximize profits and employee earnings by subordinating client best interests. The report provides no basis to think this will change.

The Banking Royal Commission failed because its terms of reference were too narrow. The inquiry was led by a judge without specialist knowledge. It was run by and for lawyers, with the legal fees for the Commission and participants totaling several hundred million dollars.

While counsel assisting the enquiry gained celebrity status for publicly humiliating senior bankers and forcing resignations, it did little to direct focus to structural issues. The Commission did not hire independent financial experts to assist its deliberations.

With a parliamentary election imminent, government and opposition have accepted the report’s recommendations. Neither side wants this to be a campaign issue.

History indicates that lobbying by the financial sector may delay and limit implementation.

The industry’s arguments are obvious. Action limiting credit supply will damage an already weak housing market. Extra regulatory oversight will increase costs. Personal liability for senior executives and restricting performance-linked remuneration will make talent difficult to attract and decrease competition.

Given the extreme brevity of financial memories, it would be surprising if misconduct does not again rear its ugly head. The Royal Commission is a missed opportunity to deal with the real issues.

Satyajit Das is a former banker. His latest book is ‘A Banquet of Consequences’ (published in North America as The Age of Stagnation). He is also the author of Extreme Money and Traders, Guns & Money.

 

 

SOURCE:  https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/Australia-will-rue-missed-chance-to-cut-banks-down-to-size?fbclid=IwAR2jCF6qXlty2B7TWllrc98vaohNmVY7dcFHlMqMn62SW7ORWpwZX1LTqww

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THE GREENS SHOULD HAVE SPLIT!

 

COULD it have been the Greens were subject to political interference?

 

Former Greens leader Bob Brown considered talks on forming a breakaway Greens party but ultimately decided they should stay united.

 

The Greens should have split

 

Via Domain:

Former federal Greens leader Bob Brown held talks with a group of NSW Greens MPs about forming a new breakaway party as the civil war inside the state branch reached boiling point.

The discussions, which were continuing among the MPs as late as last December, advanced to the point that designs for a party logo and website, as well as party branding as “Green independents”, had been canvassed, sources told the Herald.

Upper house MPs Cate Faehrmann, Justin Field, Jeremy Buckingham and Dawn Walker met Mr Brown in August to discuss the prospect of forming a new environmental party amid a deepening ideological rift within the NSW Greens.

Mr Brown confirmed that the option of a split was discussed at the meeting, describing them as “general discussions”, and said he had counselled the group to instead push for reform inside the party.

They should have split. It would have given the polity an option for a real green party.

The irony is the “Independent Greens” would have been the lefties.

As opposed to the awful Fake Left rump, that is really right wing given it cares an awful lot more about boosting urbanisation profits via mass immigration than it does the environment.

Now there’s no green nor left party at all and it’s future is grim.

 

SOURCE:  https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2019/02/the-greens-should-have-split/

 

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2011 FAMILY TIE RISK FOR GREG SMITH MP

 

 

Family tie risk for MP

GREG SMITH, the man expected to become the state’s next attorney-general, used taxpayer money to engage a company that employs his son Nathaniel, a plumber turned political lobbyist.

On four occasions, the Epping MP had his electorate newsletter printed by Hugo Halliday, a Liberal-aligned lobbyist and public relations firm based in Gladesville.

Greg Smith.
Greg Smith.CREDIT:HELEN NEZDROPA

 

Hugo Halliday employs Nathaniel Smith as a senior adviser. He previously worked as a plumber but has assisted in political campaigns, including John Alexander’s win in Bennelong, John Howard’s old seat.

Greg Smith, a former director of public prosecutions, did not return calls from The Sun-Herald yesterday but Hugo Halliday’s owner, Bill Pickering, said Mr Smith had not broken any rules by engaging his firm despite the family connection.

 

Mr Pickering, a former communications director for the Australian Defence Force, described his company as a ”squeaky clean operation”. It donated $11,110 to the Liberal Party last year, according to Election Funding Authority documents.

Lane Cove MP Anthony Roberts, whose electorate office is in the same building as Hugo Halliday, has had three newsletters printed by the company. Pru Goward and Matthew Mason-Cox are also customers, according to Hugo Halliday’s website.

Electoral newsletters are paid for out of the $41,000 a year Logistic Support Allocation from the NSW Parliament which provides $14,835 for non-electronic communications.

Senior figures in both the Liberal and Labor parties said Greg Smith could face a ”minefield” of claims of conflict of interest if he became attorney-general and Nathaniel continued to work as a government lobbyist. Kevin Rudd’s brother Greg was forced to sell his lobbyist business, Open Door Consulting, before Rudd became prime minister.

”The attorney-general has to be above the law. The matter has been drawn to his attention by the party at a senior level,” said a Liberal figure. ”It’s something Greg might have to explore with his son before the election.”

Nathaniel’s biography on the Hugo Halliday website boasts that he can deliver ”exposure in critical circles”. A government source said Labor in opposition would have a ”field day” if he was opening government doors for big business.

”Greg seems to be stepping just inside the line. They’re OK at the moment, but once he becomes a minister there’s going to be a massive conflict of interests. At cabinet level the attorney-general is asked to provide advice on every minute, every piece of legislation being considered.”

Mr Pickering insisted there would be no conflicts. ”I run a business here that has the highest level of integrity and will continue to do so. If I think there’s a conflict of interest, Nathaniel Smith will not deal with that client, it’s as simple as that. He will not deal with any organisation that is seeking anything that may need the approval of Greg Smith.”

The aspirations of Nathaniel emerged amid what appears to be a brewing turf war among Liberal-aligned lobbyists for access to the predicted O’Farrell government.

One of the biggest beneficiaries is former Liberal government minister Michael Photios who founded MP Consulting and is expected to add his name to the lobbyist register on the eve of the election. Mr Photios may also face accusations of conflicts of interest as he intends to remain vice-president of the Liberal Party and leader of its moderate left faction.

There have been persistent rumours that Mr Photios will unite with former party boss Nick Campbell, himself an inhouse lobbyist at Johnson & Johnson. Both denied the speculation when contacted by The Sun-Herald last week.

Another firm looking to fill the void left by Labor-aligned lobbyists such as the dominant Hawker Britton is Barton Deakin, headed by former Coalition leader Peter Collins. Barton Deakin, which has also taken on Liberal heavyweight Grahame Morris, is owned by STW Group which also owns Hawker Britton.

Electorate home to a developer dilemma

THE fine line that Greg Smith will have to tread having a son as a government lobbyist is highlighted by the ongoing ”trauma” in his Epping electorate over high-rise developments.

Mr Smith has been an opponent of the big developments being pushed by the NSW government, most notably Meriton’s $500 million Mobbs Lane project at the former Channel Seven site at Epping.

In April last year, Mr Smith told NSW Parliament homes, gardens and trees would be ”destroyed by this proposal and replaced by five-storey buildings in some areas and 10-storey buildings in other areas”. In September, he said streets around Epping would be ”gridlocked” if Meriton was allowed to build 800 homes at Mobbs Lane.

A local MP arguing against dense developments in his community is nothing out of the ordinary, but it has placed him in direct alliance with his son Nathaniel.

One of Hugo Halliday’s three clients is Tesmar Group, a residential developer that specialises in low-rise apartment projects. It has developments in Carlingford and Telopea, making the company a direct competitor to Meriton.

The NSW Parliamentary Code of Conduct prevents MPs from raising issues that may benefit a family member.

 

LOBBYING: THE INFLUENCING GAME: HOW TO ACCESS POWER IN AUSTRALIA

DON’T WE KNOW IT … IT’s OBVIOUS …

AS this report reveals there is so much more we don’t know!

 

An underlying sinister involvement through unregistered lobbyists …

BECAUSE WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE MOST POWERFUL WIDESPREAD MOVEMENT ABOUT WHERE WE LIVE HERE IN SYDNEY FROM 2012 BECAME A MERE WHIMPER

When communication was sent out about this …

-it is now evident it was deliberately ignored; it was captured

What happened why were people so compliant?

-in writing thousands of submissions to be ignored

WHERE WERE THE RALLIES?

The influence game: How to access power in Australia

How do you get your foot in the door to see the people in power? Donations, freebies and jobs after politics seem to help.

By Margot O’Neill, ABC Investigations

 

In the past three years, nearly 70 per cent of federal ministers and shadow ministers have accepted corporate hospitality, which can be anything from a lavish lunch, to tickets to the AFL grand final, to airline lounge memberships.

More than a quarter of senior and assistant ministers took jobs with special interests after leaving politics, many in the industries they used to regulate.

And major business donors to political parties in government are more likely to get access to senior ministers.

Australian politics has a money problem,” a new report from the Grattan Institute detailing these findings says.

“Who’s in the room … matters for policy outcomes.

“Powerful groups have triumphed over the national interest in many recent debates.”

The Grattan Institute report, Who’s in the Room? Access and influence in Australian politics, found multi-billion-dollar industries whose profits can be heavily affected by government regulation, such as mining, property, gambling, finance and transport, seem to get the most meetings.

It supports calls for a new national integrity commission after comparing donations, ministerial access, lobbying and policy outcomes.

Who gets the freebies?

 

Politicians often get free air travel, free sporting and concert tickets or other gifts which they must declare.

Some 68 per cent of ministers and shadow ministers have declared corporate hospitality.

Some 52 ministers or shadow ministers were corporate guests at events, averaging four events each, while 25 took corporate-sponsored trips, averaging two each.

In the last three years, the Grattan Institute said these were some of the biggest recipients:

While politicians argue attending public events is an essential part of their job, the Grattan report said sponsored hospitality is another way well-resourced interests can get more access to decision makers.

“We aren’t talking about corruption,” Grattan Institute budget policy and institutional reform program director Danielle Wood said.

“There’s no direct payment for a policy decision, it’s more subtle.

It’s about building relationships and a sense of reciprocity.

Jobs after politics

A growing number of senior politicians take jobs with special interests after they leave Parliament — about 28 per cent since 1990 and rising.

Some take jobs in the industry they used to regulate as ministers.

They are supposed to wait 18 months, but many have jumped earlier, saying they will not lobby former colleagues.

There are little consequences for breaching the ban.

So which ministers are early jumpers, and which firms are benefiting from their contacts and experience?

“There’s at least a risk of the perception that they were making decisions in a way that would favour their future employer,” Ms Wood said.

“The second risk is they bring with them inside information that could benefit special interests that they go on to work for.”

It’s who you know

 

*There are 500 registered lobbyists in Canberra who mainly represent private business, especially high-regulation industries.*

Some 40 per cent of registered lobbyists are former government officials — and the number has been rising.

Enforcement of the lobbyist code of conduct is lax and its narrow definition excludes a whole lot of lobbying action, the Grattan Institute said.

 

For instance, peak groups, such as the Minerals Council of Australia or the Australian Council of Trade Unions, are not deemed lobbyists even though the annual budget for lobbying by all peak bodies has been estimated up to $700 million.

“A large number of our most senior politicians go on to lobbying roles,” Ms Wood said.

They open doors for their new employer or clients.

Dark money flowing into politics

Declared donations of $43 million covering the last federal election (financial years 2015-2017) were highly concentrated — just 5 per cent of donors gave more than 50 per cent of all declared contributions.

Here are the top five donors:

  • Investment firm Cormack Foundation $4.54m (Liberal)
  • Then PM Malcolm Turnbull $1.75m (Liberal)
  • Shop assistants’ union SDA $1.35m (Labor)
  • Mining magnate Paul Marks $1.3m (Liberal)
  • United Voice trade union $1.11m (Labor)

State and federal political parties also openly sell access to senior ministers at fundraising events, although individual payments for these events are rarely disclosed.

Some companies also buy annual memberships to Liberal and Labor business forums which provide high-level policy briefings and networking and can cost $110,000.

At least 40 per cent of money going into political party coffers — $154 million — was not publicly identifiable.

“Some of the hidden money will be from small donations and sausage sizzles and that’s fine,” Ms Wood said.

“But there’s so much we don’t know.

Australians deserve much more visibility about who’s funding our political parties.

Who’s in the room

 

Because federal ministerial diaries are secret, the Grattan Institute analysed Queensland and NSW Ministerial diaries over the last 12 to 15 months.

Private business interests got more than 60 per cent of meetings with senior state ministers.

Consumer and community groups were about 20 per cent.

While trade unions are among the biggest donors, they get less than 5 per cent of meetings, although the Grattan report observes many unions access significant influence through the ALP.

In Queensland, 45 per cent of meetings with senior ministers were with high-regulation industries, some of which were also major donors, contributing $10,000 or more.

But some groups are conspicuously under-represented such as young people, consumers and disadvantaged groups, the Grattan report said.

“The harm is that well-resourced interests get more sway over decision-making than the rest of us,” Ms Wood said.

“We want political outcomes, policy making to be about the best ideas, for it to be in the national interest rather than for special interests.”

Draining the billabong

The Grattan Institute points to clear warning signs government policy is sometimes at risk of skewing to rich and powerful interests because the political system entails significant financial dependence, cosy relationships and a lack of transparency.

“Powerful groups have triumphed over the national interest in many recent debates from pokies reform to pharmaceutical groups to toll roads and superannuation reform,” the report said.

“Australians want to drain the billabong: they don’t like the current system and they don’t trust it.”

Ms Wood said Australia needed to do more to reduce the capacity of special interests to control policy.

“If political parties are serious about reducing public cynicism, they should let the sun shine in.

Tell us where the money is coming from and who our Ministers are meeting with.

Do you know more about this story? Email investigations@abc.net.au.

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SOURCE:  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-24/lobbying-gifts-jobs-relationships-and-donations-affect-democracy/10282852

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AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT: REGISTER OF LOBBYISTS

IN 2008 … ‘Cabinet Secretary, Senator John Faulkner, released an exposure draft of the Lobbying Code of Conduct. The Code will underpin the operation of Register of Lobbyists. Lobbying is a legitimate part of the democratic process, but there is a public expectation that lobbying activities will be carried out ethically and transparently’

THAT was then …

About the Register

 

What’s New

Changes to the Lobbying Code of Conduct

Changes to the Code and Register apply from 20 September 2013:

  • individuals who apply for registration from this date must provide a declaration that they are not members of a state or federal political party executive, state executive or administrative committee (or the equivalent body)
  • individuals who are members of a state or federal political party executive, state executive or administrative committee (or the equivalent body) at 20 September 2013, or subsequently, who were registered as at 20 September 2013 may stay on the Register until 20 March 2014

Currently registered lobbyists have been contacted directly with details of the changes. For more information see the FAQ page.

In 2008 the Australian Government introduced a Lobbying Code of Conduct and established a Register of Lobbyists to ensure that contact between lobbyists and Commonwealth Government representatives is conducted in accordance with public expectations of transparency, integrity and honesty.

Any lobbyist who acts on behalf of third-party clients for the purposes of lobbying Government representatives must be registered on the Register of Lobbyists and must comply with the requirements of the Lobbying Code of Conduct.

The public Register of Lobbyists contains the following information about lobbyists who make representations to Government on behalf of their third-party clients:

  • the business registration details and trading names of each lobbying entity including, where the business is not a publicly listed company, the names of owners, partners or major shareholders, as applicable;
  • the names and positions of persons employed, contracted or otherwise engaged by the lobbying entity to carry out lobbying activities; and
  • the names of clients on whose behalf the lobbying entity conducts lobbying activities.

Consistent with the Government’s commitment to keeping the Code and Register under review a discussion paper on possible reforms to the Code and Register was released for comment by the former Cabinet Secretary, Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig, on 15 July 2010. Contact the Lobbyists Register via our contact form to request a copy of the discussion paper.

See also:

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Calls for investigation of National party president Larry Anthony’s LOBBYING firm

Larry Anthony: calls for investigation of National party president’s lobbying firm

Former MP owns SAS Group, which counts Santos, Delta Electricity and Indue among its clients

 

The group has previously lobbied on behalf of Santos, among others, and lists China Telecom Global and Delta Electricity as clients.

Larry Anthony, a former minister in the Howard government, is no longer registered as a lobbyist, but owns a lobbying firm.
Larry Anthony, a former minister in the Howard government, is no longer registered as a lobbyist, but owns a lobbying firm. Photograph: Mike Bowers for the Guardian

The federal opposition has called for an investigation into revelations that a lobbying firm run by the National party president, Larry Anthony, was acting for energy companies and the firm behind the cashless welfare card.

Anthony, a former minister in the Howard government, is no longer registered as a lobbyist. But he remains a director of the SAS Group, a lobbying firm which counts Santos, Delta Electricity and Indue among its clients.

Fairfax Media on Saturday reported concerns about potential conflicts of interest posed by the arrangement.

Anthony told Fairfax he did not blend his political and commercial work, and had removed himself from the lobbyist register when he took the National party job.

“We do take [the lobbyist code of conduct] very seriously and we comply with it to the letter,” he told Fairfax.

The SAS Group immediately rejected the report as “baseless”. It maintained it had always acted in accordance with federal lobbying laws and the code of conduct.

“We note that the Fairfax journalist has made no allegation of impropriety, and was not able, when asked, to point to any breach of the relevant code,” the company said in a statement.

“We are unbothered by the baseless implications upon which the news story is founded. However, we are deeply offended that our hard-working staff and consultants should have their achievements debased in this way.”

Labor’s deputy Senate leader, Don Farrell, said the claims must be investigated by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

“To claim that Mr Anthony removing his name from the register and claiming that he is not actively involved in direct lobbying makes a mockery of the obvious intent of the code to prevent conflicts of interest,” Farrell said.

“Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce must insist that the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet thoroughly investigate all government contracts awarded to organisations represented by Mr Anthony’s lobbying firm.”

Anthony was formerly a director of Indue between 2005 and 2013, according to records from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic).

SAS Group continues to lobby on Indue’s behalf. The company has been awarded contracts for the cashless welfare card in a limited tender process.

Guardian Australia is not suggesting any link between Anthony and the tender process.

When Guardian Australia queried the tender process earlier this month, the Department of Social Services said it had awarded contracts to Indue after sounding out banks and other financial institutions about their interest in providing the cashless welfare card.

“DSS conducted thorough consultations with major banks, finance and retail institutions about the potential provision of services for the cashless debit card. These consultations indicated a lack of commercial interest in delivering a small scale trial of this nature,” the department said.

“Independent probity advice to DSS confirms that the procurement process was conducted in accordance with the commonwealth procurement rules, relevant legislation, policies and probity principles.”

The department’s version was later confirmed by Westpac, which said: “Over a number of years the government has sought feedback on the card. We indicated to the government it was not something we are interested in delivering.”

Indue said Anthony held no shares in the company at any point in its history.

“Indue is wholly owned by financial institutions, all of which have their heritage in the mutual and credit union sector,” the company told Guardian Australia earlier this month.

“At no time has any individual (or through any controlled entities) owned shares in Indue Ltd or any of its subsidiaries.”

“At no time has MP Larry Anthony or any entities he controls owned shares in Indue Ltd or any of its subsidiaries.”

SOURCE:  https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/sep/30/larry-anthony-calls-for-investigation-of-national-party-presidents-lobbying-firm

DEVELOPER ‘COUNTRY GARDEN’ Australia Boss says “We’ve done nothing wrong” over Maguire tape

We’ve done nothing wrong, Country Garden Australia boss says over Maguire tape

The 363-hectare western Melbourne site Country Garden purchased last year for a record $400 million.
The 363-hectare western Melbourne site Country Garden purchased last year for a record $400 million. Justin McManus

 

WE’VE DONE NOTHING WRONG COUNTRY GARDEN AUSTRALIA BOSS SAYS OVER MAGUIRE TAPE

 

The NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has added to the pressure on NSW Liberal MP Daryl Maguire to resign, as the Australian head of a Chinese property developer who was named as his client says the company has “zero tolerance” for illegal behaviour.

Country Garden Australia chief executive G.T. Hu declined to comment on the recording of Daryl Maguire’s conversation with former Canterbury City councillor Michael Hawatt, played in Friday’s hearing of an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry, that led to Mr Maguire’s resignation from the parliamentary Liberal Party and calls for him to resign from Parliament.

“I need to talk to my consultants and my lawyer first,” Mr Hu told The Australian Financial Review on Sunday. “What I can tell you is that Country Garden is a responsible company and we have zero tolerance for any illegal things [by] any employees.”

Mr Hu was asked why Mr Maguire was heard to be asking Mr Hawatt about shovel-ready sites that Country Garden could acquire in the May 2016 conversation – a month in which units surged 2.1 per cent in value in Sydney’s then white-hot market, according to CoreLogic figures.

“I think you’d better ask him,” Mr Hu said. “Because he mentioned our company. You’d better be asking him.”

Mr Maguire was not answering phone calls on Sunday. In a statement, the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was shocked by the evidence presented to ICAC and said Mr Maguire “has let down his constituents, the people of NSW and the NSW Liberal Party.”

Over the weekend she had spoken to the NSW director of the LIberal Party and asked him to seek Mr Maguire’s resignation from the party. “I am advised he has resigned his membership,” she said.

She said that while it was for Mr Maguire to decide if he should stay in parliament, “I would encourage him to think carefully as to whether he can effectively represent the people of Wagga Wagga from here on in.”

Her comments raise the likelihood of an unwelcome byelection for the government, which could trigger a three-cornered contest with the National Party. The seat is one of only a few regional seats west of the Great Dividing Range held by the Liberal Party instead of its Coalition partner. The seat is relatively safe, held by a margin of 12.9 per cent.

In a phone tap, Mr Maguire, the member for Wagga Wagga, said the developer was a “client” of his and discussed making a commission from the sale of a Sydney development site to the company.

Hong Kong-listed Country Garden, the largest Chinese developer by sales last year, entered Australia in 2013 and by 2014 was in discussions to take over Sydney-based Meriton, the privately owned business of Australia’s second-richest person, Harry Triguboff.

After some years building apartment towers, it expanded into the house-and-land market last year, with a record-breaking $400 million purchase of a 363-hectare site in Melbourne’s west. Earlier this month it said it had sold out the first stage of the planned Windemere estate.

It is unclear why the MP for a rural NSW electorate was searching for sites on behalf of a Chinese developer, but Country Garden does not seem to be the only developer with which he had links. In 2015 he visited the headquarters of Aoyuan International, the developer of Sydney’s 38-level ONE30 Hyde Park development.

An Aoyuan press release says Mr Maguire met the company’s chairman Guo Zi Wen at its headquarters in Guangzhou in southern China in November that year. The company said Mr Maguire was briefed on the company’s history, strategy and its projects in Australia during the visit.

In the recording played in Friday’s hearing, Mr Maguire told Mr Hawatt, a key figure in the current ICAC inquiry into suspected corruption at Canterbury Council, that his client was “mega big”, had “mega money” and was hungry for development sites with permits in place.

“I need a few things to feed my friends,” Mr Maguire tells Mr Hawatt in the recording. “They want 30 projects, rolling, and ideally they want something that’s DA approved, a couple that are DA approved and ready to go. How much per unit site are they asking?”

Mr Maguire then told Mr Hawatt that the commission of 1.5 per cent that the owner of the Canterbury Road development site in western Sydney they were discussing was willing to pay Mr Hawatt was not enough.

“One point five per cent isn’t enough divided by two, if you know what I’m talking about,” Mr Maguire said. “Three per cent’s a lot better.”

SOURCE:  https://www.afr.com/real-estate/weve-done-nothing-wrong-country-garden-australia-boss-says-over-maguire-tape-20180715-h12pqo

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