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Australian news, and some related international items

Christine Milne is right: Martin Ferguson’s new job a mockery of code of conduct

Ferguson-under-scrutinyThe code says: “Persons who, after 6 December 2007, retire from office as a Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary, shall not, for a period of 18 months after they cease to hold office, engage in lobbying activities relating to any matter that they had official dealings with in their last 18 months in office”.

Greens’ claims over Ferguson lobbying are in the ballpark  ABC News Fact Check 8 Oct 13

  • The claim: Christine Milne says former resources minister Martin Ferguson’s new jobs make a mockery of the lobbying code of conduct.
  • The verdict: By taking up the appointment within the cooling off period it can be argued that Mr Ferguson has made a mockery of the intent and spirit of the code.
  • “……..Mr Ferguson’s new roles, six months after he resigned from federal cabinet in March, made a mockery of the ministerial code of conduct, Senator Milne said.”Martin Ferguson’s appointment as group executive of natural resources for Seven Group Holdings and as chair to a petroleum industry advisory board makes a mockery of the code of conduct which prevents former ministers engaging in lobbying activities relating to any matter that they had official dealings in,” she said.

    The new jobs

    Mr Ferguson accepted a role as chairman of an advisory board of the gas and oil industry’s peak body, the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association.

    The association’s website acknowledges its status as a lobby group, saying it “works with Australian governments to help promote the development of the nation’s oil and gas resources in a manner that maximises the return to the Australian industry and community”. Its board includes representatives from Australia’s largest oil and gas companies including resources giants BHP Billiton, Origin Energy and Shell.

    Mr Ferguson has taken a newly-created position of chairman of the association’s advisory board…….

    Mr Ferguson is also due to take up the position of group executive, natural resources, at Kerry Stokes’ Seven Group on October 9, also a newly-created position. Seven Group has an interest in WesTrac, a provider of construction and mining equipment.

    Mr Ferguson told the Australian Financial Review his “skills and contacts” as a former resources minister would be a major advantage for Seven Group. “What I will be looking for is to develop the mining sector with Seven Group,” he said.

    The Lobbying Code

    The lobbying code of conduct was first tabled by the then special minister of state in the Rudd government, Senator John Faulkner, in 2008. It came into effect on July 1, 2008.

    The code says: “Persons who, after 6 December 2007, retire from office as a Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary, shall not, for a period of 18 months after they cease to hold office, engage in lobbying activities relating to any matter that they had official dealings with in their last 18 months in office”.

    It defines “lobbying activities” as any oral, written, or electronic communications with a government representative in an effort to influence government decision-making. …….

    Ministerial Code of Conduct

    Another set of rules which covers the conduct of ministers is Standards of Ministerial Ethics. This was first issued in 1996 during John Howard’s government. In 2007, the then prime minister Kevin Rudd replaced some of the code, including the part that refers to the employment of ministers after they leave parliament.

    The standards says for eighteen months after ceasing being a minister they “will not lobby, advocate or have business meetings with members of the government, parliament, public service or defence force on any matters on which they have had official dealings as Minister in their last eighteen months in office.”

    It also says “ministers will not take personal advantage of information they received as a minister that isn’t available to the general public”.

    Senator Faulkner says: “The combination of these Standards and the Lobbying Code means the public can be confident that Ministers will not be able to use the experience and contacts they have gained in office to enhance their value to the private sector, either as lobbyists or as senior executives in business with the Government”……..

    Mr Ferguson’s job as an advisor to an oil and gas lobby group does not appear to directly breach the Lobbying Code, but is it at odds with the intent of the code?….. Neither the lobbying code nor the ministerial code is underpinned by legislation, nor do they carry any specific penalties for those who breach them……

    The verdict

    There is no evidence that Mr Ferguson has breached the code. But by taking up the appointment within the cooling off period it can be argued that he has made a mockery of the intent and spirit of the code. Senator Milne’s claim is in the ballpark. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-07/milne-ferguson-lobbying-code/4997304

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October 8, 2013 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, religion and ethics

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