Queensland integrity review a ‘wake-up call’ on government lobbying

An integrity probe into the accountability and culture of the Queensland government is a “wake-up call” for greater transparency.

The report warned the only way to restore public faith in Queensland politics was to be “more accountable and transparentand behave with integrity”.

The 131-page final report handed down late on Tuesday identified widespread and escalating concerns surrounding government lobbying in a system clearly lacking proper transparency and regulation.

The public administrator and academic Prof Peter Coaldrake made 14 recommendations including reigning in the access and influence of lobbyists.

The review called for a strengthened framework surrounding ministers, their staff and senior public service officers to be continually reviewed and reinforced.

The report urged for Queensland’s auditor general to be granted more independence and given broader scope to monitor the departmental use of consultants and contractors.

It also called for a “single clearing house” to track and streamline the progress and outcome of complaints, as well as pushing for greater protections for whistleblowers and the mandatory reporting of data breaches.

The recommendations also called for the ombudsman to investigate complaints against private organisations carrying out functions on behalf of the government, and for public service bosses to be given five-year contracts, unaligned to the electoral cycle.

“This review aspires to influence a cultural shift which encourages openness from the top, starting with cabinet processes and a resulting shared focus on identifying and dealing with the challenges Queensland faces,” Coaldrake said.

“Any good government, clear in purpose and open and accountable in approach, should have fewer integrity issues.

“It is now up to the government to make this focus a wake-up call to support for a more open system of government.”

Il premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, welcomed the final report.

“The premier commissioned the review in the constant effort to improve ways in which Queenslanders can be served by their government,” her office said in a statement.

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

Coaldrake warned the actual lobbying contacts could be up to five times higher due to a rise in undocumented lobbying.

The premier on Monday pre-empted several of the report’s key recommendations, announcing tightening of regulations surrounding lobbyists and their level of access.

Anyone working for a lobbying firm would be deemed a lobbyist, and only be allowed to contact a minister’s chief of staff. All meeting requests must be made in writing.

Lobbyists will no longer be allowed to write “other” in the official register as the subject of meetings with ministers.

Anziché, they – and ministers – will have to include more detail.

The Queensland opposition leader, David Crisafulli, said he feared the report would not deal with the “corruption risk that is the Palaszczuk government”.

Speaking before its release, Crisafulli said he doubted the final report would stop Labor-aligned lobbyists from being favoured for access or donating to the Labor party.

“The Coaldrake report deals with one bin fire of the integrity issues crippling this government,” he told reporters.

“It doesn’t address the integrity inferno at the heart of the corruption risk that is the Palaszczuk government.”

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