Lobbying laws review as concerns over Labor links grow
Political lobbying laws are set for review after a request by the state's Integrity Commissioner, who warns she's noticed "various issues" emerging.
Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov, who oversees the state's Integrity Act but has no investigative powers to probe unethical behaviour, has asked for a wholesale review of lobbyists provisions amid an "extraordinary and sustained" demand for her counsel.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday said she would support an examination of whether the state's lobbying laws need overhauling within the upcoming five-yearly Strategic Review of the Integrity Commissioner's performance and functions, due next year.
It comes in the wake of questions over Labor's use of private sector lobbyists, many of whom used to work for Labor and whose companies lobby the government on behalf of clients.
The practice has been defended by Ms Palaszczuk.
Ms Stepanov confirmed the upcoming review could examine whether her office needs investigative powers, an expanded jurisdiction, and a boost to its modest resources.
"I have been in the role of Integrity Commissioner for three and a half years, and over this time there has been an extraordinary and sustained demand for the services of the office," she said, having previously spoken of "various issues" she had seen develop amid increasingly complex scenarios.
"In my view this has been due to our efforts to raise the profile of ethics and integrity across services and sectors, and a sustained and heightened commitment to ethics and integrity by those responsible to the public."
She said her office's structure, scope and resources may be considered under the Strategic Review, as would the views of the public into integrity matters.
"Regarding particular aspects of the functions of the Integrity Commissioner, including any expansion of jurisdiction to include investigations or other amendments of the Integrity Act, I note that the Parliamentary Committee will be well placed to consider the outcomes of the Strategic Review and any public submissions received," she said.
A spokesman for Ms Palaszczuk said she would support the review investigating any and all aspects of the Integrity Act.
It came as Deputy Premier Steven Miles played down the latest revelations that lobbyist and former ALP state secretary Cameron Milner scored government office space to work on Labor's October re-election campaign, saying the average person wouldn't care.
"I'm not sure it's something that particularly would concern the public," he said when asked if it was "a good look".
"It's not unusual for former state secretaries to provide advice and be engaged in that way," he said.
Mr Milner's 1 William Street setup - seated next to departmental staff members - was probed in a Budget Estimates hearing on Monday.
But Ms Palaszczuk said neither Mr Milner, nor fellow lobbyist and former ALP state secretary Evan Moorhead who also worked on the campaign, were "in charge" while in the building.
Mr Milner is a director of lobbyist firm Next Level Strategic Services and Mr Moorhead, who visited the building for meetings only, is a director at lobbying firm Anacta Strategies.
Opposition finance spokesman Jarrod Bleijie slammed Mr Miles's comments and insisted the public did care about integrity matters.
"The presence of Labor lobbyists at 1 William Street turned a government building into a political headquarters which disrupted staff and cost taxpayer money," he said.
"Integrity means nothing to this government."
Ms Stepanov's request also follows the extraordinary foray into the October campaign by Crime and Corruption Commission boss Alan MacSporran, who warned: "The CCC's own intelligence assessment indicates that the lines between government and the private sector are blurring, with overlapping networks of association involving consultants, influencers, lobbyists and executives."
Ms Palaszczuk and the Parliament's Economics and Governance Committee were working on the terms of reference for the Integrity Commissioner's review and have yet to decide who will undertake it.
Meanwhile, Ms Palaszczuk has again refused to answer key questions about a purported email that was sent to her private account from her Minister Mark Bailey's infamous mangocube address.
The Premier would not say yesterday whether it was genuine and refused to say whether she replied to it from her email email@example.com.
A spokesman for the Premier said any emails to the mangocube account were provided to the CCC, which has already conducted an investigation.
"As the Premier stated during estimates hearings, she does not use the account and has not for some time," he said.
Originally published as Lobbying laws review as concerns over Labor links grow