Gifts, donations for access, cosy relations: Report on mining approvals in Queensland

With the Queensland Labor Government still to make a decision on the controversial Acland coal mine expansion, as well as finalising the terms of reference for the inquiry into political donations which the Annastacia Palaszczuk promised to Peter Wellington in order to form government, a report released today paints a disturbing picture of the lack of transparency and accountability in the cosy relationships between senior government officials and the mining industry in Queensland. 

Too Close for Comfort reveals a pattern of secrecy, a lack of accountability and transparency and a fast moving revolving door between the highest level of the bureaucracy and government, where political donations may well be just the tip of the iceberg. 

The report found:

  • Only a fraction of lobbyists are covered the lobbying register. There is virtually no disclosure of the content or outcomes of lobbying meetings. For instance, a meeting between the CEO of Adani and the Director General of the Department of State Development would not be disclosed because the lobbying register does not include “in house lobbyists”.
  • Senior government officials regularly meet mining lobbyists at social or sporting events where there is no disclosure of the meeting, its content or outcome. The LNP and ALP allow companies to pay for access to ministers.
  • Large political donations from mining companies seeking approval for controversial projects have been accepted by the LNP and ALP. 
  • A ‘revolving door’ allowing senior government officials to move to high paying jobs in the industries they regulate, and often back again. 

“Mining licenses are the largest transfer of public assets to private hands in Queensland. You would expect the highest standards of transparency and accountability,” Research Director of The Australia Institute, Rod Campbell said. 

“Instead, dealings between government officials and mining companies that stand to make billions out of these decisions are shrouded in secrecy. Government officials allow themselves to be wined and dined, and even flown to weddings, and regularly then go on to accept plum jobs in these very same companies.” 

“A lot of these officials seem to see themselves as an extension of the mining industry rather negotiating hard for the best deal for Queenslanders” 

“With these cosy relationships, how can Queenslanders have any confidence in the approval the mining approval process.” 

Polling in Queensland revealed that the majority of respondents in mining-effected electorates Cairns and Stafford felt that the mining industry had too much influence on the state government. 

“When highly controversial mines like Acland are being approved despite in the wake of political donations, it’s hard for the public to be confident that the right decisions are being made for the right reasons. 

“These are billion dollar decisions. Queenslanders should be able to expect the highest standards of transparency and accountability. 

“Any yet we find that these deals are being done in secret in corporate boxes at sporting events secret and plush restaurants without any disclosure of what goes on at the meeting. 

“At the end of the day, companies don’t give shareholders money away without expecting something in return,” Campbell said. 

In exit polling from the Queensland election, 73% of Queenslanders said issues of “transparency, accountability and trust in government” had a “large impact” on how they voted.

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