A report by the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission suggests that the risk of corruption within the state government had “intensified” amid a wave of lobbies.
It found that a small number of key groups and individuals appeared to have a “disproportionate amount of access” to government and could use those relationships to “influence government decisions.”
“In some cases, the individuals or groups who have been granted access have long-standing and close political or personal ties to the decision-makers or government they seek to influence,” the report published Friday said.
“Further, in some circumstances, these individuals have been engaged by a political party or government agency while still involved in influencing practices such as lobbying.”
Meanwhile, the report, Influencing Practices in Queensland, also found that there was a “significant increase” in lobbying activity in the state.
“The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic recovery efforts appear to have contributed to the recent surge in lobbying activity in Queensland,” the report said.
The report also found that 14 percent of public service employees had seen or suspected private sector pressure on the department’s employees.
While 11 percent had seen or suspected private sector pressure on elected officials.
The report also noted how recent surveys found that individuals or groups have maintained or developed relationships with key figures to influence government decisions.
In an audit in 2021, the CCC identified 103 discrepancies between government agency records and contacts listed in the Lobbyist Contact Register in Queensland.
It also recognized that a relationship between lobbyist and elected official was not necessarily an indicator or cause of corruption.
It was noted, however, that doing so could create a conflict of interest and increase the risk or perception of “favoritism or undue influence”.
Possible public hearings
The CCC wants to investigate to what extent the contacts between lobbyists and representatives of the government and the opposition have been accurately recorded by the government.
“The audit includes examining data from a sample of government agencies, including state government departments and local councils, as well as members of parliament and ministries,” the report said.
It said the audit would make it possible to proactively review and identify any activities or associations that could endanger the public interest.
The CCC suggested in the report that it could hold a public hearing if warranted.
Olympic Games carry increased risk
The CCC said the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games presented “an increased risk of undue influence.”
“In Queensland, the government has already started planning and recruitment for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” the report said.
“As high-profile projects and developments are announced, there will be an increasing demand for positions and contracts.”
Opposition leader David Crisafulli said the Games were not about “special favors, for special friends”.
“We want to make sure the infrastructure is delivered on time and on budget, that the best contractor gets the job most worthy of, not the ones with the most influence,” he said.
Overall, he said the report was a “deeply troubling development” in the integrity crisis in Queensland.
“It shows a culture that is rotting by the state government, a culture where lobbyists have unrestricted control, unrestricted access, and where it’s all about the inner workings of the political process, not how to serve the people of Queensland.” , said Mr Crisafulli.
“There is no doubt that the influence of Labor lobbyists in Queensland is terrifying.
“Unless we have a full Royal Commission on the way the government in Queensland works, we will continue to see the murky relationship.”
Posted † updated