Tuesday, 18 September 2018
That the Senate:
(i) that on 17th September 2018, the Guardian Australia launched a series of damning articles about the practices of lobbyists in the Australian Parliament,
(ii) that the article states that "Big business is gaining almost unfettered access to the corridors of Australia's Parliament owing to an oversight regime that is weak, unenforced, opaque and unable to keep track of the revolving door between lobbying and government", and
(iii) high profile cases such as former Resources Minister Mr Ian MacFarlane taking up a job as head of the Queensland Resources Council almost immediately after quitting politics and, Mr Bruce Billson, former Minister for Small Business, being employed by the Franchise Council of Australia (FCA) in March 2016, before actually leaving the Parliament; and
(b) calls on the government to
(i) urgently tighten the ministerial code of conduct to preclude ministers from taking up jobs as lobbyists within 5 years of leaving Parliament, and
(ii) ensure that meaningful penalties are put in place for former ministers who breach the code of conduct.
The Lobbying Code of Conduct prohibits former ministers from engaging in lobbying activities relating to any matter that they may have had official dealings with in their last 18 months in office. Similarly, former senior staff to ministers and former ministers are subject to a 12-month prohibition, as are senior members of the Defence Force and the Public Service.
The opposition supports the general principles behind this motion. However, we cannot support the current wording. The government has constantly and consistently ignored the Statement of Ministerial Standards despite now having versions issued by three different prime ministers. Labor believes that, unless ministerial standards are effectively enforced, adjusting the time limits imposed on post-ministerial employment will have no effect.
Like the ALP, the opposition, I do support the general feelings in the motion, but I think five years is excessive. If they were to come back again with three years or something like that, I could support it.