Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and lobbyist Evan Moorhead (Images: AAP/Twitter)

The revolving door is apparently well-oiled in Queensland.

Since leaving Annastacia Palaszczuk’s office just over a year ago, former chief political adviser Evan Moorhead has already drummed up some serious business through his new lobby firm. 

His agency, Anacta Strategies, now boasts an enviable client list, including mining giant Glencore, law firm Maurice Blackburn and engineering group Downer.

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And now it’s been revealed the former ALP state secretary is also being paid by Labor to help run its campaign ahead of the October 31 state election, sparking fresh integrity questions. 

Business is booming

Moorhead set up Anacta in June last year with fellow ­political consultant David Nelson.

Crikey can reveal the agency boasts another former Labor staffer, Liam O’Regan, an ALP organiser who worked in the office of Senator Anthony Chisholm from 2016 to 2018.

According to the state’s lobbyist register, Anacta was picking up clients just months after Moorhead’s exit in May last year. But the upcoming election has seen a boom in business, with about 15 clients joining since June.

For a young firm, Anacta has been extremely busy.

According to government contact logs, the group has met with department officials more than 100 times in its short life. This includes meetings on behalf of the Urannah Water Scheme, which is building a new dam, hydro power plant and water infrastructure in north Queensland.

But despite his access to powerful decision-makers, Moorhead says he is not being sought out for his contact book. 

“I don’t think you can assert that it works like that,” he told The Australian.

“We’re very professional in what we do and follow the rules for all of our engagements.”

Potential conflict

Palaszczuk was issued a warning by Queensland’s integrity commissioner in October last year over her links with Moorehead’s firm, after it was revealed it had secured repeated access to Palaszczuk’s chief of staff David Barbagallo on behalf of the New Hope Group, with whom Moorhead had dealt directly in government as it sought approval for a $900 million expansion of its New Acland Mine, west of Brisbane.

University of Queensland political science and international studies researcher Chris Salisbury said Moorhead’s dual role raised integrity questions.

“There’s obviously a question of a potential conflict of interest if he is in fact closely involved in the managing of Labor’s campaign for this election,” he told Crikey.  

“That in itself is not that much of a surprise given his involvement in past campaigns, but of course his position now as head of this lobby firm raises questions about how far removed he is.” 

All in the family

It’s not the first time the Palaszczuk government has sparked controversy over its close proximity to lobby groups. 

Cameron Milner, former Queensland Labor secretary and chief of staff to Bill Shorten, helps Queensland Labor run election campaigns, while also running local lobbying outfit Next Level Strategic Services, whose clients include Adani and other resources companies.

And Palaszczuk’s Labor predecessor Anna Bligh had her own issues with former lobbyists-turned-deputy chief of staffers. Her chief of staff Mike Kaiser had lobbying links too.

But Moorhead is clearly not one to rest on his laurels, with Anacta donating $8100 to Labor ahead of next month’s election.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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