The Lobbyist Register is a gift that keeps on giving for shedding light on the extensive links between third-party lobbyists (remember they are the only ones on there — in-house lobbyists continue to operate in secret) and Labor politicians.
And while the Register is in part designed to ensure that the likes of Brian Burke could never gain access to key decision makers, it shows that lobbyists at the heart of the WA Labor Government’s problems with probity and influence-peddling are plying their trade in Canberra.
Peter Clough, who was entangled in the WA Corruption and Crime Commission’s investigation of Brian Burke’s activities with the State Labor Government, registered shortly before the scheme’s commencement on 1 July. Clough, a former Labor staffer, senior public servant and lobbyist for Western Mining, was last month kicked off the election campaign of State Labor Secretary Bill Johnston under Alan Carpenter’s crackdown on lobbyists managing election campaigns.
Three other lobbyists — ex-MP John Halden, who had boasted of receiving leaked Cabinet information (although the key issue in Perth seems to be more who does not receive leaked Cabinet information), Daniel Smith and John Whitelaw, were also removed from campaign management roles.
All three are on the lobbyist register as well. Halden runs Halden Burns with former West Australian political editor Anne Burns. The firm’s Principal Consultant is former journalist Karen Brown, who is standing at the election for Labor in the new seat of Mt Lawley. It was her campaign from which Halden was booted. Whitelaw, a former Labor staffer, heads the Perth office of Hawker Britton, the ne plus ultra of Labor-connected lobbyists. Smith, another former Labor staffer and resources company lobbyist, is at CPR, where he works with Roger Cook, who is standing for Labor for the seat of Kwinana.
Clough was caught up in the CCC’s investigation of Brian Burke when their somewhat bemused discussion of their promotion of a local councillor was caught on tape. Clough also operates as the Western Australian office of Queensland-based lobbyists Enhance Corporate, run by Vern Wills with former Labor minister Jim Elder. The links between Wills and top Queensland Government public servant Scott Flavell are under investigation by the Crime and Misconduct Commission. Flavell has extensive Labor Party connections in Queensland.
Clough’s clients are an eclectic group but skew heavily toward resources companies. The sector has very good connections with WA Labor — Gary Gray, former ALP national secretary, Kim Beazley’s replacement in the seat of Brand and now Parliamentary Secretary to Anthony Albanese, worked for Woodside Petroleum for several years in the early part of this decade. As it turns out, resources companies will be among the lobbyists working hardest to convince the Government to further water down its proposed Emissions Trading Scheme.
This rotating mix of public servants, ministerial staffers, politicians and lobbyists intersecting, influencing one another, changing jobs and doing it all over again in a different role, is a perfect example of modern politics – in the broadest sense, and from Federal politics right down to local councils — at work. At least John Faulkner has slowed down the process of staffers, senior public servants and politicians job-swapping by banning them from moving into industries for which they had responsibility for an extended period. Beyond that, all we can do is use the Register to keep an eye on this process. It won’t stop — indeed, with the ALP in power everywhere, it will only get worse.
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