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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Categories: Barry O'Farrell, Greg Smith NSW Attorney General, Tony Abbott
The tone of the comments will be interesting on this one.
I think, it is a step in the right direction, very early on in his Prime Ministership,
It has only been days, I am going to give it more time, after all, Mr Abbott has been Prime
Minister not even two weeks!!!!
There are so many politicians and I am sure there will be some that use their positions to help their cause or a certain amount of corruption. That is why it is good that we have people like you Shane to keep them on their toes. At the end of the day, I am so glad that Liberal are governing.
Hey Shane, I’m really glad you intend to keep an eye on this lot too. And with good reason as LNP,Liberal, Coaltion , whatever governments have a long track record of feathering their own nests.
Bloody hell, the politicians will tear their hair out.
You mean you want it, that one can get an appointment with the local member and discuss a matter without employing some spiv $20,000 per month.
The poor bastards might have to do their job then?
So what will happen (for example) to Turnbull’s $50,000 club to meet with shakers and movers as he broadcast years ago.
Really, one can not expect the politicians to mix with constituent riff raff, well not until the month before an
As for their concerns! Just do not acknowledge any correspondence. Problem solved!
Alex Mitchell wrote a very good article on lobbying and corruption titled “Lobbying from the Dark Side” – http://meanjin.com.au/articles/post/lobbying-for-the-dark-side/
We can thank Commissioner David Ipp of the ICAC with his findings from the ICAC’s 2010 Operation Halifax enquiry for no doubt influencing Tony Abbott to ban Liberal Party officials from acting as Lobbyists.
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.
http://lobbyists.pmc.gov.au/ and http://lobbyists.pmc.gov.au/who_register.cfm
There are some 265 names shown on the Register of Lobbyists, most of them companies and businesses, and many have more than one client to lobby for. The lobbyists must be fighting over each other to get a foot in the door with that many people involved. Corrupt conduct is punishable under the Criminal Code Act 1995 so if it has happened, let’s hope the culprits are caught but maybe it’s time for the Federal Government to have an Independent Commission Against Corruption, instead of relying on complaints to the Federal Ombudsman or a whistleblower to the Federal Police. Hopefully Tony Abbott has establishing an ICAC on his “to do” list and then corruption from all perpetrators in the Federal sphere can be exposed.
When we get a Federal Icac we can all sit back and let the ICAC control corruption! With nsw ICAC history it is a site like KCA which will be more powerful than any ICAC as it is influences by REAL People Power. More Power to KCA = Dollars! Here is a Donation too!
If you want something interesting to read on NSW ICAC read here http://www.wbde.org/documents/2007_Mar_15_Action.php
The only thing Nathaniel Smith could do for a corporate client is exactly what he shouldn’t do – just one meeting and they’d see this to be true