Annastacia Palaszczuk tightens Queensland’s lobbying rules ahead of integrity report release

Queensland’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has moved to tighten political lobbying rules ahead of a key report being released into her own government’s integrity.

Prof Peter Coaldrake is due to hand down his final report into government accountability and integrity on Tuesday.

In April, his interim report found lobbying was widespread, escalating and lacked proper regulation.

Coaldrake said he would consider steps to ensure the ministerial code of conduct “has teeth and is observed” in his final report.

Palaszczuk on Monday pre-empted his possible recommendations and announced changes to the lobbying code of conduct. She said anyone working for a lobbying firm, except for administration staff, will be deemed a lobbyist.

“That basically means anyone working for a lobbying firm will need to be registered as a lobbyist,” Palaszczuk told reporters.

Lobbyists will only be allowed to contact a minister’s chief of staff, she said, and must request all meetings in writing.

“There will be no lobbying activity for those under a senior adviser in a ministerial staff … the people who are appropriately trained, and have extensive knowledge of their portfolio responsibility,” Palaszczuk said.

Lobbyists will no longer be allowed to write “other” as the subject of their meetings with ministers in the official register. Palaszczuk said lobbyists would have to detail the subject of a meeting with a minister, while the minister would have to include those details in their ministerial diary as well.

She said she was also prepared to make any other changes recommended by Coaldrake. Palaszczuk has previously promised to order a royal commission into government integrity if that’s advised.

The Liberal National party’s deputy leader, Jarrod Bleijie, dismissed the changes as “window dressing”.

“We all know the premier announcing this … is nothing more than an attempt by the premier to look like she’s doing something, instead of actually doing something,” Bleijie said.

“Clearly the premier sees this as a political issue, not an integrity issue.”

Coaldrake’s interim report said the lobbyist register “is not doing the job which was intended” and found evidence of politicisation in the public service and ministerial staffer “overreach”.

He noted 988 recorded meetings between registered lobbyists and ministers or officials in 2020-21, four times the average annual amount over the previous nine years.

However, the report warned actual lobbying contacts could be up to five times higher than the figure recorded due to a rise in unregulated lobbying.

Earlier this month, the corruption watchdog reported lobbying had surged since the Palaszczuk government was re-elected in 2020, increasing the risk of corruption.

The Crime and Corruption Commission said its investigations showed state government decisions “can be inappropriately influenced”.

Donors, lobbyist clients and people with political links have won government contracts, project approvals, grants or subsidies, it said, and some groups and individuals also have disproportionate access to government ministers.

One in 10 public servants had witnessed or suspected people from the private sector pressuring a politician, the watchdog said. About 14% had witnessed or suspected people from the private sector pressuring public servants.

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