Australian news, and some related international items

Defence officials become military lobbyists

Defence officials turn lobbyists, sometimes weeks after leaving government

Eight former defence figures, most high-ranking, are now lobbyists for military contractors, Guardian, Christopher Knaus,  @knausc, 18 Sep 2018 Senior defence officials and military figures are taking paid jobs with firms lobbying for arms manufacturers, sometimes within weeks of leaving their government posts.

Guardian Australia has identified eight former military officers or defence bureaucrats, most of whom were high-ranking, who have publicly registered themselves as lobbyists for firms that represent military contractors.

But many other defence lobbyists operate largely in secret, either because they work directly for military contractors, or because they simply refuse to put themselves on the lobbyist register, avoiding scrutiny for themselves and their clients without any real repercussion.

One recent example of a lobbyist who placed himself on the lobbyist register is Tyson Sara, a former assistant secretary in defence’s naval shipbuilding taskforce, whose role was described as “leading the implementation of the Australian naval shipbuilding plan”.

Sara left defence in March and soon after joined lobbying powerhouse Cmax Advisory as its chief operating officer and vice-president for strategy and government.

Cmax represents the shipbuilder Navantia Australia, defence contractor Northrop Grumman, and the Israeli weapons manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems……….

Military officers who held a rank above colonel or its equivalent are banned from lobbying for 12 months on “any matter they had official dealings with” during the last year of their employment. Senior executive service officers in the public service face the same cooling-off period.

But the lobbying code of conduct, already weak by international standards, is rarely enforced and staff movements are poorly monitored.

The code also fails to consider former defence employees who are employed directly by weapons companies, either as in-house lobbyists or senior executives.

That means it does not apply to individuals such as Sean Costello, who worked as chief of staff to the then defence minister David Johnston between June 2014 and January 2015, as the government planned its $50bn future submarines program, according to evidence in Senate estimates. Costello left Johnston’s department and two months later became the chief executive of the Australian arm of French submarine manufacturer DCNS, a Senate committee heard.

That company, now known as Naval Group, eventually won the submarines contract in 2016.

In Senate estimates in 2015 Defence conceded that it was “a fair assumption” that Costello, in his role as chief of staff, would have had access to confidential documents and briefings on the submarine project.

Defence said in evidence to the Senate that it provided Johnston’s office with 34 pieces of written advice relating to the submarine project in the time Costello worked in the office, on top of material provided to the minister in a daily briefing pack.

……. Tim Costello, chief advocate for World Vision and the executive director of Micah Australia, said the sheer value of defence contracts meant it was necessary to apply added scrutiny to the sector.

“They are so lucrative,” Costello said. “It means that the transparency and accountability must be higher and commensurate with the goldfields they represent of taxpayer dollars.”

The Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick said it was clear the lobbying code needed to be enhanced for former defence personnel. Patrick said senior defence personnel were often exposed to privileged and sensitive information on policy, strategy, and commercial and tender requirements.

“While I wouldn’t suggest that this information is shared amongst a lobbyist’s clients, when former officials service their clients, it’s simply not possible to unknow this information when formulating advice,” he said.


September 19, 2018 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, weapons and war

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