Queensland’s Integrity Commissioner has released a paper saying selling access to ministers through political fundraisers should be made illegal.
Queensland’s Integrity Commissioner says a shroud of secrecy surrounding political donations is eroding public trust in the state’s leaders.
In a paper released on Friday called “Ministerial access and the public trust”, acting Queensland Integrity Commissioner David Solomon says politicians shouldn’t be able to “prostitute their ministerial office” by selling access.
Dr Solomon said the Queensland government has repeatedly rejected his calls to make more lobbyists publicly accountable.
In fact, he argues recent changes to donation laws, which raised the reportable threshold from $1000 to $12,400, had made the situation worse.
He cited an LNP fundraiser on October 9 where attendees paid $5000 for a seat, a situation which Dr Solomon feels creates mistrust with the public over a politician’s intentions and motivations.
“The public is deliberately kept in the dark by the organisers of these fund-raisers and by the ministers concerned about who are paying quite significant sums of money to gain access to ministers, presumably, in many cases, in an effort to influence them,” Dr Solomon wrote.
“No doubt some may find this simply a convenient and convivial way to make a donation.”
Dr Solomon said advances had been made with the public release of edited versions of ministers’ diaries every month and the requirement for lobbyists to reveal all their lobbying contacts with government representatives.
Both measures were introduced by the LNP government, but Dr Solomon pointed out the second measure only applies to “registered third party lobbyists”.
“Selling access to ministers is a breach of the public trust. It is unethical and it should be illegal,” he said.
“The fact that some governments have changed political donation rules to make it possible for donors to keep their identities secret does not provide a justification for the practice. What it does do is confirm in the public mind the low regard they have for politicians.”
Queensland’s opposition leader said it was her party’s policy to lower donation thresholds.
“Labor policy is to lower the thresholds to $1000,” Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters.
“Labor firmly believes $1000 thresholds must be declared and the Labor party will continue to declare those amounts to the electoral commission.”
A spokeswoman from the premier’s office said all political donations are appropriately declared and comply with the law.
“Political party fundraising and getting ‘access’ to government are – and should be – completely separate,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.