Qld govt contacts with lobbyists surge

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Queensland’s integrity commissioner is “very concerned” about illegal lobbying after a surge in recorded contacts between the state government and lobbyists.

Dr Nikola Stepanov told a parliamentary estimates committee on Friday that complaints about lobbying and requests for advice about lobbying from her office are rising.

“When I first started as the integrity commissioner, there were relatively few complaints that were referred to us and there were relatively few requests for advice,” she said.

Dr Stepanov said there 38 requests for advice and 988 contacts recorded between lobbyists and government ministers, MPs, public servants, local councillors or local government staff in 2020/21.

That compares to an average of 239 contacts per year between January 2913 and June 2020.

“This shows a recent fourfold activity,” Dr Stepanov added.

The integrity commissioner said there was a large number of discrepancies in reporting as well.

She said there were 46 discrepancies in the records held by chief executives of state government departments and the lobbyists.

There were another 57 discrepancies between the records held by chief executive officers of local governments and the lobbyists register.

Dr Stepanov said almost all discrepancies related to lobbyists failing to record contacts with people on the government register.

“Obviously I’m very concerned about unregistered and unlawful lobbying and we are introducing processes such as our annual audit, so that we have a better understanding of the extent of the issues,” she said.

Meanwhile Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was asked by government MPs at the estimates hearing about budget spending, the COVID-19 response and securing the Olympics.

The Liberal National Party’s questions on healthcare and integrity were often ruled out of order because they contained “inferences” resulting in shouting matches.

At one point Labor committee chair Linus Power urged an interjecting LNP MP, Fiona Simpson, to “please restrain yourself”.

LNP MP Jarrod Bleijie asked the premier whether she would go into 14-day hotel quarantine on her return from Tokyo next week.

Ms Palaszczuk will be presenting Brisbane’s 2032 Olympic bid to the International Olympic Committtee in Japan.

The premier confirmed she would go into hotel quarantine, but Mr Bleijie complained she wouldn’t say who would be paying for her stint.

“This is a cover up … it is disgraceful,” the LNP MP said before walking out.

The hearing continues.

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