Tony Abbott announced last week that Liberal Party officials will be banned from acting as Lobbyists as far as the federal government is concerned. Why were they ever allowed in the first place and what about the states that have Liberal Party governments? This is a band-aid solution, which without further reform, is nothing more than an attempt to cover-up clear and blatant corruption.
It is left open to abuse on a massive scale. Everything from politicians taking bribes via the lobbyists to the liberal party lobbyists extorting money from companies on the basis that if they do not pay the lobbyists they will not get government business and/or government approvals they need for their business.
Just this week Liberal Party member and Sutherland Shire mayor Kent Johns was “replaced as Sutherland Shire mayor following damaging allegations raised by the Herald concerning special favours awarded to developers with Liberal Party connections.” (Click here to read more)
NSW Liberal Premier Barry O’Farrell jumped on board with Prime Minister Abbott the same day, but why did he wait over 2 years since he came to power. Maybe O’Farrell was getting some reddies under the table? And to my knowledge there has been no announcement by the Queensland LNP government or the Liberal Victorian and Western Australian governments so one has to assume it is business as usual in those states.
It goes a lot further than just Liberal Party officials. Just ask NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith and his son Nathaniel Smith who works for the Liberal-aligned lobbyist firm Hugo Halliday.
Grassroots Liberal Party members are raising issues and trying to drive change and while applauding Tony Abbott for his decision, say that it needs to go a lot further.
The scam and how it works and by who. We will use NSW as the example
If a large company in NSW wants to influence government they pay some crony Liberal Party official who also happens to be a Lobbyist. In NSW this could be the President, Vice President or a Director of the party.
You can pay other Lobbying firms as well but of course they will not have as much influence. This is the selling point that one Liberal Party crony has been caught using when touting their business. Joseph Tannous is currently on the NSW Liberal state executive and the SMH reported:
“Mr Tannous’ dual roles sparked controversy last month when it emerged that he had been boasting on his LinkedIn profile that his party positions could deliver ”results” for clients.”
Mr Tannous is currently under investigation for that boast. Who by? His mate Premier Barry O’Farrell. It should be referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) or if the NSW Labor Party were not so corrupt themselves they could have a NSW Senate inquiry.
“Controversial political lobbyists Joe Tannous and Michael Photios will quit their roles on the NSW Liberal state executive after Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared that party officials will be banned from lobbying his government.” (Click here to read more) What happened to people getting involved in politics to serve the people? When Mr Tannous and Mr Photios had to make a decision they went for the money and it did not take them long.
Last year it was reported: “The Daily Telegraph revealed yesterday that Mr Photios is charging retainers of $20,000 a month for clients to give them advice on handling the government and to introduce them to senior ministers at the same time he remains on close terms with the Premier Barry O’Farrell.“ (Click here to read more)
Others such as former federal MP’s Alexander Downer and Santo Santoro are in similar positions and need to either resign as Lobbyists or resign from executive positions with the Liberal Party. (Click here to read more)
Who has been banned?
Lobbyists have to be registered with the government to lobby the politicians for their clients. It is only Lobbyists that lobby for more than one issue that have to be registered. So for example the NSW Liberal Party President Chris Downy who lobbies only for online gambling does not have to be registered as a lobbyist and therefore bypasses the new changes by Tony Abbott and Barry O’Farrell.
The new rules also do not cover relatives of federal or state MP’s and Senators such as NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith’s son Nathaniel Smith. Greg Smith gets a regular mention on this site simply because he is just so corrupt (read this previous post) and I have no doubt he would abuse his position to help his son. In fact he has previously spent tax payers money with Hugo Halliday which Nathaniel works for.
On a side note but worth mentioning, another son of Greg Smith, Jerome Smith at the recent federal election “was accused of ripping down authorised Labor posters in Greenway while abusing western Sydney Labor volunteers so badly they were reduced to tears”. (Click here to read more) I think this shows the born to rule mentality of Greg Smith and his sons and that they think they can do whatever they want, even break the law. So would they stay inside the law when it comes to lobbying?
As it turns out Nathaniel Smith was planning on running for the Liberal Party state executive last year but his employer, Hugo Halliday, stopped him because of conflict of interest concerns. (Click her to read) What a joke! If they were really concerned they would not have employed the son of a politician as a lobbyist, whose only known qualification is that of a plumber, in the first place.
So at the moment there are plenty of ways around the new lobbying rules.
Liberal Party Grassroots campaign
The liberal Party operate in a very similar way to the Labor Party from a view-point that it is only a few who have the controlling power of the Party. As with the Labor Party change is coming whether they like it or not.
A liberal Party grassroots campaign has started and was reported on the 7.30 Report:
TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: You can either be a powerbroker or a lobbyist, but you can’t be both, you can’t be both.
MATT PEACOCK: Within hours, the controversial faction heavy Michael Photios resigned from the state executive along with another colleague.
But today in an email to nearly 10,000 state members, party activists John Ruddick and Walter Villatora have called for the changes to go further. “… our party is now at a crossroad,” they’ve written. The, “NSW Liberal Party is unique … our lobbyists (have) until now not only been influencing lawmakers … they’ve been installing many lawmakers.”
MATT PEACOCK: John Ruddick wants laws, not just a code also banning the single-issue lobbyists currently not required to register. Until last week’s resignations, 10 of the 16 elected to the state executive were lobbyists and more than half of these still remain.
JOHN RUDDICK, LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER: People who are registered lobbyists have now resigned, but there are a significant group of people who are in-house lobbyists and, well, if – there’s reforms that I’m proposing come in that they wouldn’t be able to serve (inaudible).
MATT PEACOCK: Including the state president. I mean, he lobbies for online gambling.
JOHN RUDDICK: Well, I’m gonna be put me in a gulag, Matt, if you get me to comment there, so I’ll have to say no comment on that one.
MATT PEACOCK: But, I mean, something needs to be done.
JOHN RUDDICK: Oh, yes, and something is going to be done. I feel very – the membership of the party now is outraged about what’s happening. The membership of the party is delighted with what Tony Abbott has done. So, yes, I believe something is going to be done. (Click here to read more or watch the report)
So while it is a good start by Prime Minister Abbott, he has to go a lot further in the near future because if he does not then his reform is really a waste of time and disingenuous.
When political parties win an election all the old cronies line up to become lobbyists. Or for ones that are already lobbyists their business all of a sudden booms if they are aligned to the winning party.
Yes the Labor Party might be just as bad if not worse, but that does not make it right and is only an argument someone who is happy with the accountability and corruption bar being set low would argue.
Why are the Liberals changing now? One reason is that everyone has a voice with social media and politicians are under closer scrutiny than ever. The Liberal Party would be well aware that a lot of the failings of the Labor Party either started online with social media or were reinforced by social media on an ongoing and daily basis and Mr Abbott does not want this to happen to them. So your voice does count and so does the voice of this site and its supporters.
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