Political donations may be on the nose (at least in NSW), but don’t be fooled: influence peddling is alive and well. Recent coalition victories in NSW and Victoria have been a boon for lobbyists with conservative credentials.
Treasurer-turned investment banker Peter Costello recently become a key investor in a new lobbying firm run by two of his former political advisors, Jonathan Epstein and David Gazard. Costello will also sit on the advisory council of the company, ECG Advisory Solutions, which already lists seven clients on the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s lobbyists register. Gazard, a former journalist and press secretary, told The Australian Financial Review yesterday that Costello would not be involved in day to day lobbying.
In other lobbying news, the NSW Liberal Party’s chief fundraiser, Paul Nicolau, has taken up a job as managing director of Premier State, the political lobbying firm owned by conservative powerbroker Michael Photios, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Photios, who was named one of The Power Index’s top ten political fixers, set up Premier State in May to capitalise on Barry O’Farrell’s crushing state election triumph.
Also back in May, O’Farrell warned businesspeople that they would be “wasting their money” by paying lobbyists to help secure them better access to his government. He also banned the appointment of lobbyists to government boards.
But in August, O’Farrell appointed Brian Ross, an Australian Hotels Association lobbyist, to the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority. The Labor opposition has asked ICAC to investigate whether the premier has breached his own rules. O’Farrell says he did not know of Ross’ continuing association with the AHA when he ticked off on his appointment.
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