Wednesday, 4 September 2019

NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption investigating regulation of lobbying, access and influence in state government circles

In New South Wales state governments have attempted to regulate political and commercial lobbying of members of parliament and public servants under provisions contained in Lobbying of Government Officials Act 2011 , Lobbying of Government Officials (Lobbyists Code of Conduct) Regulation 2014, Lobbying of Government Officials (Lobbyists Code of Conduct) Amendment Regulation 2019, Premier’s Memorandum M2015-13 ‘NSW Lobbyists Code of Conduct’, Premier’s Memorandum M2015-05 ‘Publication of Ministerial Diaries and Release of Overseas Travel Information’

To date this approach has obviously been working so well that on 5 August 2019 the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) began public hearings into the regulation of lobbying, access and influence in NSW (Operation Eclipse). 

Three hearing days occurred in August and the next public hearing date is not scheduled until 21 October 2019.

 According to ICAC; “Like the Commission’s previous examination of lobbying practices in 2010 (Operation Halifax), this investigation is not concerned with examining whether any particular individual may have engaged in corrupt conduct, but rather seeks to examine particular aspects of lobbying activities and the corruption risks involved in the lobbying of public authorities and officials.” 

Interestingly on 30 August 2019 The Australian gave this explanation of the possible genesis of Operation Eclipse

The NSW corruption commission will examine the “revolving door” where politicians and public servants leave their careers to move into jobs with private sector lobbyists, warning that the trend has whittled away public trust. 

Heidrun Blackwood, a senior corruption prevention officer for the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, said the crisis of public trust in government risked cascading towards “doomsday” levels in the near future. 

She said the integrity body would soon investigate the access granted to special interest groups by MPs and public servants. 

Ms Blackwood flagged the investigation after Christopher Pyne — a former federal defence minister — took up a defence consulting job with EY, and former federal foreign minister Julie Bishop landed a gig as a board director with development contractor Palladium. 

Both have denied wrongdoing and have been cleared by outgoing public service boss Martin Parkinson, who is appearing before a parliamentary committee today to take questions on the matter….. 

According to the Grattan Institute, since 1990 more than one-quarter of all federal ministers or assistant ministers have taken up roles in lobbying outfits or special interest groups since leaving parliament. 

“The revolving door is an issue that we are going to look at,” Ms Blackwood said. “It is true that, on the one hand, it is part of democracy to have that conversation. 

“On the other hand, there is also the impression that some people are getting more access than others. That has prompted our commissioner to look at that issue more closely.”

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