Major inquiry call rejected
The Queensland Government has rejected calls for an inquiry into lobbying and public service politicisation.
An interim report (PDF) by Prof Peter Coaldrake recently found government lobbying in Queensland is widespread, escalating and is not meaningfully regulated. It also identifies strong evidence of politicisation in the public service and ministerial staffer “overreach”.
“The lobbyist register is not doing the job which was intended,” he wrote.
The review shows there were 988 registered meetings between lobbyists and government ministers or officials in 2020/21 - which is about four times the average annual amount in the previous nine years.
Dr Coaldrake said the actual number of lobbying contacts could be five times higher than the figure recorded, due to widespread unregulated lobbying.
In Queensland, lawyers, consultants and others that may meet with politicians are not legally defined as “lobbyists”, and have no legal obligation to declare lobbying.
Dr Coaldrake raised specific concerns about the Labor-aligned firm Anacta Strategies, which has both acted for clients to influence the government and worked on Annastacia Palaszczuk’s re-election campaign in 2020.
“This can leave the public sceptical about even the strongest protections against conflict,” Dr Coaldrake said in the report.
He also said that a culture has grown in which public servants do not necessarily act under pressure, but still take it upon themselves to protect ministers.
“The effect is to have a public service whose motivations are partly informed by a self-imposed obligation to ‘protect’ the minister, which is at variance with its proper practice,” the report said.
Queensland’s LNP opposition leader, David Crisafulli, has called for a commission of inquiry to be established to look into the allegations.
Queensland’s acting premier, Steven Miles, has rejected that call.
“We’ve never said we will be perfect,” the acting premier said.
“This is a government determined to continue to do better, determined to take on advice about how we can do better.”
Dr Miles said Dr Coaldrake’s process would be enough.
“We commissioned this report, we will hear the findings and we’ll implement them,” he said.