Transparency needed in Baird Government: ICAC

THE Baird Government has been labelled the least transparent of all the major parties, with independent think-tank The Australia Institute saying it has failed to implement key ICAC recommendations designed to reduce the risk of corruption in lobbying.

Australia Institute executive director Dr Richard Denniss found Labor had done better, but had still not submitted to all the anti-corruption advice.

The comments are particularly poignant now, arriving on the back of fresh claims the NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance held a "secret meeting" with a Chinese government-owned energy giant over the lease of state electricity assets.

"Even after losing 10 MPs as a result of ICAC corruption investigations, the NSW Government has failed to learn the lesson that secret lobbying breeds corruption," Dr Denniss said.

"ICAC have given us a comprehensive set of recommendations to clean up lobbying in this state.

"If the NSW Government fails to act on them, we can only assume they wish to continue to do secret business with lobbyists."

The 2010 ICAC investigation found a lack of transparency in the current lobbying regulatory system created a major risk of corruption.

Members of both sides of politics were found to have engaged in alleged dishonesty, most notably former Labor minister Eddie Obeid.

"Those who lobby may be entitled to private communications with the people that they lobby, but they are not entitled to secret communications," ICAC found.

The commission recommended records of lobbying activity should be made available to public scrutiny - including written records of all meetings and calls.

Dr Denniss said The Australia Institute's study revealed the Baird Government had done the least of the three main parties to lift the veil of lobbying secrecy.

He said the Coalition's ministerial diaries included only a minimal description of the subject of meetings, with no mention of the outcome.

They were also only published quarterly, making it difficult for journalists and the public to scrutinise them in a timely manner, he said.

Labor got a better transparency rating.

Dr Denniss said they had agreed to publish their ministerial diaries monthly, rather than quarterly, and took minutes of all meetings and relevant phone calls, while making all lobbying activity subject to the Government Information (Public Access) Act, as per ICAC recommendations.

But The Greens were found to be the most open party of all, accepting all of ICAC's recommendations.

"Whichever party wins the election, the adoption of the ICAC lobbying recommendations would be good policy for their party, the better governance of NSW, and go to restoring the public confidence in government," Dr Dennis said.


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