Lobbying for companies has become a post-politics gold mine for an increasing number of former MPs and ministers. People who once made big public decisions now are paid big to influence their successors.

It's much easier to get in the door of buildings like this when you once had an office there…

This is happening at all levels of government, but the NSW experience - where former state ministers and associates are not just lobbyists but are aiming to take over the state Liberal Party organisation - raises some substantial questions.

One is: When a lobbyist is on a political party’s executive, how do we know they are keeping apart their public duty and their paid-for business loyalties?

There is no suggestion of corruption. But there is a danger the that separation of those interests, which often can be in robust competition, being difficult to maintain.

Political lobbying once was a job reserved for former political advisers such as Bob Carr staffer Bruce Hawker (now an election campaign consultant)  and John Howard’s original chief of staff Grahame Morris.

But increasingly it’s MPs and ministers who after quitting elected politics to use their insider knowledge of how government works and personal contacts in the public service and Parliament - built up over a career - to promote the interests of companies.

Former Labor senator and minister Mark Arbib is working now for the Crown casino interests. Former Liberal foreign minister Alexander Downer is a corporate consultant and started a business with former Labor minister Nick Bolkus.

And R.J.Hawke and Associates has been doing business - big business with big companies - for some time now. More recent entrants in the consulting biz include a brace of former Labor premiers: Steve Bracks, Peter Beattie, John Brumby, Mike Rann.

These are the high-visibility operators. In state affairs, the players are sometimes not as easily spotted and their influence can be harder to track.

Michael Photios was NSW Minister for Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Justice from May 26, 1993 to April 4, 1995 under the premiership of John Fahey.

Chris Downy was NSW state Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing from May 26, 1993, to April 4, 1995.

Mr Photios, who runs the busy lobbying firm Premier State, has been a vice-president of the NSW Liberal Party and is now standing for one of seven positions as urban representative on the party’s state executive.

Mr Downy is likely to be elected president of the Liberal NSW division. He is head of an industry group promoting on-line gambling, having previously lobbied for casino owners.

Both men are from the moderate wing of the party and head a bid for that faction to win almost all the 16 places in the party executive in a ballot to start next week.

Not all Liberals are agreeable to this, and not always merely on factional grounds. Yesterday some 10,000 people were emailed the following by Walter Villatora of the Liberals’ Brookvale branch.

“We are on the precipice of facing a major problem of our own making at both a state & federal level,” he wrote.

“It seems that we are possibly only weeks away from having one of the country’s most high profile gambling lobbyists, Chris Downy, elected State President at what couldn’t be a worse time.”

The email said “the Federal leader Tony Abbott does not need the added pressure and complication of the newly appointed head lobbyist for online gambling to be elected to the State President’s position in the lead up to what will be a hard fought election campaign.

“This issue could cause major problems for the NSW government and place the winning of the Federal election at significant risk.”

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    • TheRealDave says:

      09:14am | 23/11/12

      No mention of a certain Liberal Defence Minister who resigned in disgrace only to walk out into a 6 figure job with a defence contractor he was awarding contracts to for years?

      Really?

      Its also happening in Qld as we speak with a number of newly evelcted MP’s, Ministers, Cabinet Members, LNP apparatchicks, lobbyists etc all being handed sweetheart deals, backroom appointments, contract banckhanders etc To add insult to injury they are ramming through legal changes to cull the power of the Crime and Misconduct Commission and prevent oversight of hwat they are getting up to.

      Seems legit to me….and definitly not a return to the bad old Joh days…..

    • Jaqui says:

      09:40am | 23/11/12

      @TheRealDave: you mean like NSW Labor and Eddie Obeid? what was it you were saying again?

    • Borderer says:

      09:57am | 23/11/12

      To be fair, the people playing these games are being exposed in the media and there have been ministerial sackings already, and I applaud it.

      Also the changes to the CMC are that they aren’t to release information relating to ongoing investigations to stop them being used for political purposes. Cry foul all you like but the flagrant misuse was down to the previous ALP government who made numerous public accusations against Mr Newman, including a TV ad campaign and going so far as to say he would go to jail for corruption in parliment only to find there was no case to answer and no evidence to table.
      None of this would be necessary if people actually behaved like grown ups.
      Frankly if they think that we can return to the bad old Joh days, they are sadly mistaken and I shall cast my vote accordingly. What I won’t do is scream bloody murder at the first opportunity and denouce the new government before it has an opportunity to properly exercise its responsibility, that’s expecting them to be some sort of messiah and a bastion of purity is just stupid.

    • Lie Lover? says:

      10:43am | 23/11/12

      @ Jaqui I think TheRealDave was saying that the LNP Newman government is thoroughly corrupt. How does the corruption of a NSW Labor government affect that???

    • leslie Victor Douglass says:

      10:48am | 23/11/12

      @ Borderer
      the administrative changes to the CMC are as you say - but Can Do has also cut about 50 positions from the cmc thereby seriously restricting the ammount of work it can do and the time it will take to do it. Result = less scrutiny of the government and its members.

    • Borderer says:

      11:42am | 23/11/12

      leslie Victor Douglass
      the administrative changes to the CMC are as you say - but Can Do has also cut about 50 positions from the cmc thereby seriously restricting the ammount of work it can do and the time it will take to do it. Result = less scrutiny of the government and its members.

      The CMC also has about 14,000 less people in government to scrutinise. The cutbacks are across all departments, how many of the people let go were surplus to needs? Neither you nor I have access to the information.
      The cuts were about 15% of staff so it’s not like there are only 3 people left or anything. Fair work weren’t understaffed and they managed to drag out an investigation for 3 years. So I don’t necessarily believe that having more bodies is a factor all the time.
      Like I said, the media are doing well holding the goverment to account so far, I’m not about to scream that the sky is falling. Frankly if nothing was being reported I’d be more worried.

    • Jaqui says:

      01:21pm | 23/11/12

      @Lie Lover?: While I think this behaviour is abhorrent on whatever side does it and should be dealt with most severely, I was pointing out the hypocrisy in TheRealDave’s blatantly partisan comment.
      Then again, hypocrisy is the way of leftists, do as I say, not as I do.

    • Solo says:

      02:09pm | 23/11/12

      Huh, no mention of Santo Santoro - former Howard minister; sacked for not disclosing a share portfolio in aged care facilities when he was ageing mininster .. now the centrepoint for lobbying and development in QLD .. ?

    • iansand says:

      09:15am | 23/11/12

      What “public duty” do members of party executives owe?

      Why should ex-pollies be prevented from using their knowledge (as long as there is no suggestion that choices made in office are influenced by the prospect of post-office employment)?  And I don’t mean selling stamps.

      If a party is daft enough to elect a controversial figure to its presidency why should they not do that?  They will suffer political opprobrium, but that’s their problem.  It is not corruption, or anything like it.

      This article is written on the assumption that there is a problem without any sensible analysis of whether a problem actually exists.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      03:48pm | 23/11/12

      @iansand, I think that’s the issue though, if an ex-politician ends up working for a company that received grants that were signed off on by the ex-politician, then it is going to raise questions, especially when it’s within a short period of time from leaving politics.

      A number of large companies actually have clauses in their contracts that prevent staff from moving to a direct competitor within 2 years of leaving the company, this is also along with a non-disclosure clause, etc.

      So a 2 year moratorium on ex-pollies being allowed to take up positions within a company they have had strong dealings with shouldn’t be out of the question.

    • iansand says:

      04:58pm | 23/11/12

      Doesn’t it depend on when the arrangement is made, rather than the timing?  If the employment deal is done while the politician is in office, and he or she influences a contract after that, they should go to gaol.

    • Mahhrat says:

      09:17am | 23/11/12

      The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.

      What, did you think that these gravy-train riding leeches were going to stop just because we vote them out?  Be serious.

    • BT says:

      09:33am | 23/11/12

      While we Australians have been trained to keenly identify the opposite of fascism, i.e., government intrusion into and usurpation of private enterprise, we have not been trained to identify the usurpation of government by private enterprise. Our European cousins, on the other hand, having lived with Fascism in several European countries during the last century, know it when they see it, and looking over here, they are ringing the alarm bells. We need to learn how to recognize Fascism now.

      For some years now we have lived with the Faustian bargain of the corporation. Large corporations are necessary to achieve those governmental and social necessities that small enterprises are incapable of providing. The checks on corporate power have always been fragile. Left unchecked, the huge economic power of corporations corrupts absolutely. Most of the checks are badly eroded. Is there still time to get the checks back in balance?

      “Fourteen common threads link the proto-fascist regimes since WW2 to recognizable patterns of national behavior and abuse of power. These basic characteristics are more prevalent and intense in some regimes than in others, but they all share at least some level of similarity.

      1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism
      2. Disdain for the importance of human rights.
      3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.
      4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism.
      5. Rampant sexism.
      6. A controlled mass media.
      7. Obsession with national security.
      8. Religion and ruling elite tied together.
      9. Power of corporations protected.
      10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.
      11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts.
      12. Obsession with crime and punishment.
      13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism.
      14. Fraudulent elections. “

      By Laurence W. Britt

      “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” - Benito Mussolini.

    • maria says:

      10:07am | 23/11/12

      Rampant cronyism and corruption = LEGAL MAFIACRACY.

      Officials in a democracy are responsible to the people.

      What the bloody hell happened to the people after each election?

      Where the bloody hell are they?

    • AdamC says:

      10:33am | 23/11/12

      BT, Australia would only meet a handful of thise criteria at the most. And, even on those, it qualifies only barely. Let’s assess:

      1. Well, you do see the odd flag about, and that ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie ...’ stuff is pretty ubiqitous at the cricket over summer. Let’s call that a yes.
      2. No, quite the opposite.
      3. No.
      4. No. Again, the opposite.
      5. Well, maybe if you listen to the PM’s most sycophantic cheerleaders. Otherwise, no.
      6. No, but Conroy is doing his level best.
      7. No.
      8. Not even close.
      9. No.
      10. Haha, you’re kidding! This country is practically Unionistan!
      11. Let’s call this a yes. At least, if you listen to self-important academics.
      12. Maybe on talk radio? I’ll pay that a yes.
      13. No, except in some unions and the ALP.
      14. No.

      Three out of 14 (and two of those are really sympathy points) suggests we are pretty far off being ‘proto-fascist’. One less thing to worry about ...

    • BT says:

      11:27am | 23/11/12

      @AdamC - lets just do a quick review of the review and provide rebuttal and evidence then.

      1. What happened on the bus the other day is a perfect example.  Also take a look at the lapels of certain pollies in power you’ll notice the same pin, over and over.  How about being forced to sing the national anthem every morning at school?  How about institutions such as scouts, girl guides, most sporting clubs (list goes on) flying the flag?
      How about almost every shot of Julia on official addresses being with a flag in the background?
      2. Two words - boat people.
      3. One phrase - War on Terror
      4. Agreed
      5. this point cuts both ways - our current leadership hammers this one continually
      6. Dont kid yourself, the Australian media is owned by a select few, flick between the channels at news time and you get the same stories covered, out of 7billion stories and counting, we get the same 20 per night across the board
      7. Border protection, overly ridiculous security controls at the airports
      8. Look again.
      9. You have got to be joking, this is obvious on many levels.
      10. I see your point but I think you need to analyse these unions and their connections to government - see point re cronyism.
      11. Have to agree this is currently reasonably valued in academia.
      12. I think you need to take a good look at our legal system and how busy our courts are.
      13. A couple of recent examples that I wont repeat at federal level will suffice as examples.
      14. Well, likely not, although we’ve seen a few cases recently of parties using the names of deceased to gain votes though is probably not indemic.

      If you read before the points - you’ll see the part where it says these were traits identified of fascist states, and they varied in degree - they were merely indicators.

    • Borderer says:

      02:42pm | 23/11/12

      BT,
      Your tinfoil hat is a little tight…..
      1) Yep because a bus in Victoria represents the whole country, try again. Who’s national flag are we supposed to fly in our own country? Please point to our nationalist rallies… you can’t… wait a second… wrong again… unless you’re referring to ANZAC day, in which case stop right there pal.
      2) Because taking in someone paying criminals to illegally enter our country is something we should reward…
      3) Is for the most part over, we uncover a few plots made by third string numpties but really?? Has being scanned for explosives at the airport gotten so bad?
      4)
      5) Yeah because we don’t have anything enshrined in law? The extent of this travels as far as political opponents wish it to in their efforts to score points, minor league at its absolute worst.
      6) Yet we have opposing views published daily….
      7) Because letting people bring whatever into planes worked so well for the US…. Same as bringing in other contraband and actually check who you let in the country. That’s why we don’t have rabies, mad cow etc.
      8) Tony Abbott is Catholic, Gillard’s an athiest, 1 out of 2 isn’t bad. So our leaders shouldn’t have religeon, Joseph Stalin didn’t and what a splendid chap he was. Perhaps you mean where religeons aren’t writing laws? To my best recollection that hasn’t been happening.
      9) MRRT? Carbon tax, no corporate tax cut, the corporations loved them.
      10) So when the unions get substantial benefits its cronyism even though it is unsustainably promoting power to the unions and flys in the face of point 9) ....  hmmm wrong again.
      11) While I agree that shooting a few academics would actually be good for society I really caan’t see this happening
      12) May have something to do with the upsurge in crime? Economic downturns causing increased unemployment do that. People get annoyed when the have guns shoved in their face and their money taken, heavens knows why?
      13) Yeah, because that only happens in facist leaning places…. it’s so par for the course (unfortunately).
      14) In America… you know that its a different country right?

      I know I seem to be taking the piss but you’re citing isolated incidents or minor issues and extrapilating them into a sinister swing towards facism and we just aren’t getting there. Frankly most Australians are just too lazy to really get that involved in politics, and you have to be pretty annoyed at the world to go the facist route. So please return to contemplating why you park on the driveway and drive on the parkway…

    • AdamC says:

      03:54pm | 23/11/12

      Yeah, there are some extremely long bows being drawn there, BT, not to mention a number of conspiracy theories. Sorry, but Australia is not fascist and meets very few of your criteria, if anything. Does that disappoint you?

    • BT says:

      04:26pm | 23/11/12

      Good god anything that you want to just dismiss you slap a “conspiracy theory” on its just to be honest, pathetic. It is attacking the man not the argument, if your argument holds water and your points are valid, then you shouldn’t need to say shit like that, honestly its just offensive and I take exception to it, nothing I’ve said is a conspiracy theory all I’ve done is draw links to points made by another author regarding fascism and a corporate state and pointed to minor examples.  Now I’m not sure what you want from me, some kind of massive state secret I am somehow privvy to, to back the claim?  honestly what the bloody hell am I supposed to provide for you, that would be anything but circumstancial?  Honestly?  How would I have access to any kind of info that might point to a high level conspiracy which I never even suggested was there?  What the? 

      @Border You totally missed the point re: boat people. Its not about the fact those people are jumping on boats or the smugglers should be rewarded, its got to do with our treatment of those HUMANS when we do intercept them.  Nothing more or less. On one point you are talking about customs stopping infectious disease, and I’m talking about something completely different.  I used the bus as an EXAMPLE, what do I need to sit here and list thousands of incidents to make a point?  Im not providing a fricken list of irrefutable evidence, I’m certainly extrapolating. This isn’t a scientific report, its a bit of conversation for f’s sake.

      Honestly take your tin foil hat hater cap off and look again.

    • Borderer says:

      04:51pm | 23/11/12

      BT,
      Finding a racist overtone and labelling it as genuine racism is like stubbing your toe and claiming a broken leg. We aren’t soccer players.
      The bus example is people being dickheads, most instances of so called racism are. Is it excusable, no but neither is over reaction nor is screaming the sky is falling. I would hardly called our current dickhead problem a racist issue, there are plenty of dickheads of all colours and creeds,  we just publicise the white ones and flagellate ourselves.
      How we treat asylum seekers… deny them food, shoot them, deny them medical attention or means of communication? Not really, no and frankly they’re a lot better off than other refugees as well as our serving troops and some of our poor. Again I choose not to flagellate myself.
      Myself, I’m concerned we go the path of England, ridiculous laws, no border control and a massive welfare state. I honestly don’t think we’re capable of being a pack of facists but I do think we’re capable of giving away the family silver is we lean too far left and open the doors to all and sundry, greeting them with a deed to a new house and a sack full of money.

    • maria says:

      09:35am | 23/11/12

      I have described our system of governance a MAFIACRACY.

      This system differs greatly from Democracy.
      A democracy is where a nation is ruled by its people, rather than A POLITICAL PARTY OR THE MOB who gets into power using lies and then doesn’t listen to public opinion.

      During the last few years, what we have witnessed is the rise of a political class who are in essence a dictatorship who are cut off from real world, manipulate the truth, enrich themselves at the tax payers expense. The political parties no longer represent the interests of the public but serve as vehicles for personal ambitions.

      What we have is several powerful organized groups exercise full control over national economy and the absence of democratic institutions and mechanisms, paralysis of the legal system…..
      Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph page 2 “Assets of crime paid to lawyers”.

      Our system has become a government in which the people elect their dictators…..A democracy is a society in which the citizens are sovereign and control the government as it is in Switzerland under their system of direct democracy.

      Under a direct democracy a la Switzerland the people have the last word on all constitutional changes - even those proposed by the government and parliament - as well as most international treaties.

      Do we?????

    • AdamC says:

      09:37am | 23/11/12

      I am pretty relaxed about lobbyists. I mean, Julia et al will follow union diktats whether they are being officially ‘lobbied’ by them or not. So what difference does it make?

      Other than unions, I do not see any other pressure groups successfully manipulating the political process via lobbying, as the plaintiff lawyers and Wall Street supposedly do in the USA. Organisations, people and groups that are subject to government regulations (i.e everyone) should be able to make representations to government to try to protect their interests.
      However, lobbysists should not be able to hold official positions in political parties. It is just a bad look, if nothing else.

      I also oppose activist lobbying organisations receiving government funding. I do not know whether the BCA, ACOSS, the IPA, etc, receive any government funding, but they shouldn’t. People should at least have to pay for their own lobbying.

    • YaThink says:

      01:44pm | 23/11/12

      Actually Lobbyists are something very serious to be concerned about.  At least you can see the Unions coming, you can see their fingertips on any issues and they tend to be very public in what they are aiming for.  The Lobbyist on the other hand has a nothing sort of name “joe blow & assoc.”, they tend to do a lot of business under the guise of helping the government with the launch of some art thing (that the Govt does not want to pay for), balls, dinners, sports events, they are there, whispering and it is hard for the outsider to tell what they are trying to get at all.

      I don’t know about your state but in Qld they are a scourge.  A good example are the Amalgamations we had.  This was pushed for by the Lobbyists for the Development Interests.  Basically they wanted to make it easier to build.  Now don’t get me wrong I am not ant-development, I am very anti developers or any other groups like this affecting public policy and changing legislation and rules by stealth. 

      The idea was it would be cheaper to do business in larger councils as there would be less councils to deal with for the big boys, sounds ok on the surface, except when you see a ‘report’ that looks into amalgamating and the likes of Noosa & Port Douglas with over 90% of their population opposing it not even being mentioned in the report?  Of course it is presented to the public as better, bigger councils, better buying power etc., Not one council is better off :(

      Now we add the 2nd bit to this.  On the very night the new local government legislation is passed on amalgamated councils, they also tack on a bit of legislation that give State Government final say over development applications…  (no one sort of saw that coming as they were more concerned about councils fighting).

      So, Developer lobbies basically got Councils Changed and their mates in State Govt smoothing over and having a final say in case that pesky council still didn’t play ball.  Worse, this will never be looked in by current government as even though they would love to boot the ALP with a corruption gig on it, they can’t, as our new Premier is even more in bed with the Construction and development industry than the old Labor ever was.

      Now this is just an example of one industry lobbying, how many others are there doing similar?

    • Do More With Less New-Man says:

      02:41pm | 23/11/12

      “our new Premier is even more in bed with the Construction and development industry than the old Labor ever was.”
      You mean how he relaxed laws on building height restrictions and then suddenly an application from someone close to him to develop the new “highest” building in the region?  Nah thats not corruption, thats progress!

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      10:48am | 23/11/12

      Malcolm
      They are all, without exception and no matter which Party they once represented - they have only ever actually represented themselves & their Party but never, ever us - Hypocrites, Liars & Parasites.
      No politician is to be trusted
      That applies in particular to past & present State politicians.
      SA is the perfect example.
      We want an Indepependent Crime & Corruption Commisssion.
      The State ALP Government never has but has been forced into giving us one.
      The problem is it is all going to be conducted in Total Secrecy. The Commissioner is tobe appointed by the Government-of-the-day & as the present one is ALP that will mean we will get some Union mate or ALP-appointed current or former Judge who will do exactly as the ALP & the SDA tell them to. They will find all their pals innocent & all their enemies guilty.
      They talk about Corruption overseas & feign shock & disgust.
      The difference is the Corruption overseas is Open & therefore, yes, Honest.
      The Corruption here in Australia,aprticularly amongst our politicians, is secret & hidden & therefore it is Criminal

    • Luc Belrose says:

      11:01am | 23/11/12

      Cronyism and corruption sums it all as Maria says above. Some pollies who are rejected by the people dont give up on their hasty run onto the gravy train and morphed into busy lobbyists who thru high level contacts facilitate the efforts of paying entrepreneurs. While not drawing a long bow one can say they are all in there trying to make money from the political system even when they are persona non grata in the eyes of the long suffering voters. Nothing can be done to stop this unfair practice as they are all feeding from the same trough.

    • Steve says:

      11:06am | 23/11/12

      Some things to consider:

      The professionalisation of politics as a life-long career, plus the low esteem the public holds for MPs in general means that they often can’t get another job after exiting Parliament - except lobbying and using their knowledge.   

      Second, the more that business and industry are regulated by governments (or threatened to be), the more the need for lobbyists to protect businesses and industries.  Sometimes the protection is from their competitors trying to have them regulated out of effective competition.

      Third - the more obscure or hidden the reasons behind previous decisions, the more companies need to have an ‘insider’s’ voice for self-protection.  E.g. references to “Labor values” as justification for a policy shift might make sense politically, but try making predictions as a company based on what it actually means?  You can’t, because it is a slogan.

    • Stormy Weather says:

      11:23am | 23/11/12

      I believe in grassroots lobbying. When policy directly impacts on you or those who will be greatly disadvantaged by policy reform etc.
      When it has to do with maintaining human rights then lobbying is imperative and virtuous.

      Activism is a form of lobbying which I believe is done “mostly” with good intentions.

      When big business and companies lobby, with all the resources that money can buy just to advance their own greedy agenda, that’s what makes me feel sick.
      Seeing a bunch of billionaires (eg. mining magnates) lobbying the government for more entitlements is repulsive, not commendable.

      It seems the government is greatly influenced by powerful/professional lobbyist organisations and only them. It’s why they always look for the soft targets to attack, using a marginalised group to push through policy reform so no one really cares, except of course for the marginalised group who are likely to be gravely affected. 
      Billionaires and companies lobby for profit while the disadvantaged or activists lobby for safety, better conditions, human or animal rights and to protect good policy from erosion.

    • Tim Cogan says:

      02:55pm | 23/11/12

      Has no-one heard of the concept of conflict of interest?

    • Craig says:

      05:24pm | 23/11/12

      Ditto for journalists - who are outsiders who think they are insiders.

 

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