Budget Estimates Hearings 16/08/13: Luke Foley Questions Premier Barry O'Farrell

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GENERAL PURPOSE STANDING COMMITTEE NO. 1

Friday 16 August 2013

Examination of proposed expenditure for the portfolio area

PREMIER, WESTERN SYDNEY

The Committee met at 9.00 a.m.

MEMBERS

Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile (Chair)
The Hon. C. E. Cusack
Dr M. Faruqi
The Hon. L. Foley
Dr J. Kaye
The Hon. M. R. Mason-Cox
The Hon. M. J. Pavey (Deputy Chair)
The Hon. P. T. Primrose
The Hon. P. Sharpe
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PRESENT
The Hon. Barry O'Farrell, Premier, and Minister for Western Sydney
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CHAIR: I declare the proposed expenditure for the portfolios of Premier and Western Sydney open for examination.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I will start with the regulation of lobbyists in New South Wales. Premier, can you tell us what rules you have in place to regulate the conduct of lobbyists in this State?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Those rules are published. Those rules require lobbyists to be registered on the lobbyists register and to abide by the conditions that that register provides. Of course, there are penalties if they do not.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: When you say the requirements are published, would that be a reference to two publications, the Lobbying of Government Officials Act 2011 and the New South Wales Government Lobbyists Code of Conduct?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Yes, they would be. Of course, those provisions were strengthened by my Government after the March 2011 election, for instance, to ensure that success fees were outlawed in New South Wales.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Was that amendment courtesy of the Lobbying of Government Officials Act 2011?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Does that Act—an Act of this Parliament which bans success fees; I congratulate you on that move—place other restrictions on the lobbying of Government officials?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Am I correct in drawing from your answers that it is the Act, the code of conduct and the register that cover the field formally in terms of this State's proper regulation of the activities of lobbyists? Have I missed anything?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I think that is a fair assessment.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: As you said, the Lobbying of Government Officials Act deals with success fees. What other restrictions does the Act place on lobbyists?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I do not have a copy of the Act at hand, but you do so I am happy for you to go through them because they are set out.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Can I put to you that it provides a cooling-off period for ex-Ministers and ex-Parliamentary Secretaries?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: It does indeed. Again, it was introduced after the March 2011 election.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Indeed. Can I put to you that the Act only really deals with success fees and a cooling-off period? Therefore it is necessary to move to the code of conduct to look at the other rules that the State puts in place regarding the activities of lobbyists. Is that a fair proposition?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: As I said before, you have covered the ambit of regulations and Acts that cover lobbying in this State, yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I turn now to the code of conduct. Who is responsible for the oversight of the New South Wales Government Lobbyists Code of Conduct?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Ultimately I think it rests with the Director General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet. If Mr Eccles has any difference to that he should speak up.

Mr ECCLES: No. I understand that is the case.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Do I take it from that that you are the responsible Minister under the administration of Acts for the Lobbying of Government Officials Act, and therefore the code also falls within your portfolio and it is the job of the Director General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet to ensure that the code is complied with? Is that a fair statement?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I think it is his responsibility.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: The code tells us, first, that there is a public expectation that lobbyists will be individuals of strong moral calibre who operate according to the highest standards of professional conduct. That is a strong statement, is it not, that reflects your Government's determination to ensure that the activities of lobbyists are above board in this State?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: To be fair, I do not think that part of the code has changed between governments.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: The code tells us in its preamble that the Government has established the lobbyists code of conduct to ensure that contact between lobbyists and government representatives is conducted in accordance with public expectations of transparency, integrity and honesty. That statement has survived from the last Government, has it not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Absolutely.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Do you agree that it is an important statement?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I agree.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: So when we come to the application of the Lobbyists Code of Conduct, to whom does it apply?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: The Lobbyists Code of Conduct and the lobbyists regulations apply to those lobbyists who are registered and, of course, those government and public officials who are being lobbied.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Do the government and public officials you refer to include Ministers of the Crown?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I think they include all of us except members of the Opposition.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Does it include backbenchers?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I have given my answer.

The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: The drama is rising.

CHAIR: There will be no interruptions.

The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: I am sorry.

CHAIR: Labor members are asking questions.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Does it apply to ministerial staff members?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Ministerial staff members, senior public servants, public sector agencies and, through a Premier's memorandum, Parliamentary Secretaries. That is clause 2.1 of the code.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Clause 2.1 to which you refer covers the field in terms of elected government and public servants working for the government.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Is ensuring that the code is met and that lobbyists on the register abide by the code considered a priority for your Government on a day-to-day basis?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I expect members of my Government—I expect that Mr Eccles, expects members of his public administration—to abide by a published code. I do not have to remind you, Mr Foley, that these codes are applicable codes under the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act and failure to comply with those codes can result in appearances before the Independent Commission Against Corruption, can result in the Independent Commission Against Corruption making a finding of corruption even though, as our members' handbook tells us, there may be nothing illegal in what is being done.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: What resources has the Government or the Department of Premier and Cabinet, put in place to ensure that the strong principles enshrined in the code are abided by by lobbyists, members of the Government and members of the public service? What resources are devoted to that?

Mr ECCLES: We have a systematic process for registration of lobbyists and that is managed by the general counsel within my department. We have the appropriate legal rigour in the assessment of lobbyists. In relation to the resources applied to those who are, if you like, potentially on the receiving end of lobbying activity, the general counsel will routinely induct new Ministers and staff into the requirements of the code. We cannot supervise everything that happens within the Minister's office, and ultimately the responsibility has to rest with them to appreciate the detail and to apply it rigorously.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: If I can add, beyond that we do have in this State a strong—and I have to say under Commissioner Ipp—and very effective Independent Commission Against Corruption that this year will have the largest budget it has ever had, precisely to ensure that public officials, whether Ministers or a cleaner on a railway station, understand that if they decide to act inappropriately or corruptly they can have an experience with the Independent Commission Against Corruption which is, after all, our corruption prevention watchdog.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Mr Eccles referred to the department's general counsel. Does he or she deal with applications to be added to the lobbyists register?

Mr ECCLES: That is correct.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: He or she would examine each application?

Mr ECCLES: That is correct.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Would he or she provide a recommendation to you to add a lobbying firm or an individual to the register of lobbyists?

Mr ECCLES: That is correct.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: You would have the delegated authority of the Premier or the authority under the rules to add a firm or individual to the register of lobbyists?

Mr ECCLES: That is correct.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Does the role of the general counsel only apply to new applications? Does he or she have an ongoing role to ensure ongoing compliance with previously or currently listed lobbyists?

Mr ECCLES: We routinely refresh the register so that if an organisation appears to have been fallow in its activities we will write to them to determine their ongoing interests. We are diligent in our follow-up. If there is no response then they will be de-registered. To that extent there is ongoing review of the register. As individuals are proposed to the register—it is not just whole new entrants—individuals are being added to the organisation.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I take it from that that general counsel has an oversight role in dealing with applications to be added to the register and the maintenance of the register?

Mr ECCLES: Yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Section 5 of the New South Wales Government Lobbyist Code of Conduct deals with the register of lobbyists. Do subsections 5.5 and 5.6, in short, provide an obligation on a registered lobbyist, within 10 business days of 30 June each year, to confirm that their details are up-to-date?

Mr ECCLES: Yes, they do.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: The code also provides an obligation for all lobbyists on the register within 10 business days of 30 June each year to provide statutory declarations for all persons employed, contracted or otherwise engaged by the lobbyist, does it not?

Mr ECCLES: That is what subsection 5.5 sets out.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: What happens if there is a failure by a registered lobbyist to meet their obligations under subsection 5.5?

Mr ECCLES: Subsection 5.6 says that the registration shall lapse.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Is that automatic or are they given a chance to catch up with the arrears, as it were?

Mr ECCLES: Mr Foley, you are taking me into an area where I do not have precise detail.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: You can take it on notice if you want to.

Mr ECCLES: I could indeed, Premier. But my expectation is that we do not just cut people off at the knees; that they are given an opportunity. I do have a recollection of follow-up. Now, I cannot be certain whether that follow-up is an interpretation of the lapsing provision in subsection 5.6; I would need to get further detail on that.

CHAIR: Do you want to take that on notice.

Mr ECCLES: Yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I take it from your answers that subsections 5.5 and 5.6 are monitored?

Mr ECCLES: Yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: So there is an expectation in the first instance from you and your general counsel that registered lobbyists will comply with those annual obligations to keep you up to date with their existence and who does the lobbying for them?

Mr ECCLES: Yes, that is a reasonable conclusion.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: It has been enforced in the sense that there have been times when you, as the director general, have removed lobbyists from the register?

Mr ECCLES: That is correct.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Have removals from the register only ever occurred when lobbyists have failed to comply with these annual provisions?

Mr ECCLES: I cannot recall whether the removal is exclusive or applies only to that provision. I would imagine if other parts of the code enable removal for reasons other than the lapsing of the registration, by virtue of not submitting a statutory declaration, that we would also have paid attention to those provisions but I have not had the benefit of re-reading the code recently.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Mr Foley, you will see that in section 8 of the code a variety of circumstances are set out by which people either do not get on the register or are removed from the register. You will see in section 8.3 that subject to a couple of subsections the director general may—not, shall or must—at his discretion, do certain things if he is of certain opinions.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Indeed, section 8 gives the director general that discretion. Is that a discretion you would exercise off your own bat or would you consult with the Minister responsible, the Premier, before removing a lobbyist?

Mr ECCLES: I have never had occasion to consult with the Premier or a Minister about the removal of a lobbyist.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I am told after the event.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Have you ever had occasion to remove a lobbyist from the register other than for the reason covered by subsection 5.6 that they do not meet their annual paperwork obligations?

Mr ECCLES: I have no recollection, Mr Foley, but I can take that question on notice.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Has anyone in the Government brought to your attention, Mr Eccles, concerns regarding the conduct of any lobbyist on the New South Wales register of lobbyists?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Again you can take it on notice if you want.

Mr ECCLES: I am doing my best, Premier, to see if I can bring that to the front of my mind, but cannot. So, I would not want to mislead the Committee by asserting something in which I do not have confidence.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: So you will take it on notice?

Mr ECCLES: Yes, Mr Foley.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: But at this point nothing springs to mind when it comes to complaints to you regarding the conduct of a lobbyist on the register?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I am not sure that is the question you asked a moment ago. That is a new question.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: It is a new question.

Mr ECCLES: It is a new question. Well, I cannot be confident, Mr Foley I have no immediate recollection.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Fair enough, but when it comes to the removal of lobbyists you can certainly point to examples under subsections 5.5 and 5.6 where they have really lapsed, they are no longer a going concern; they do not put in their annual paperwork. You may write to them to see if they are still in existence and ultimately you would discover that they are not an ongoing concern. It would be standard procedure to tidy up the list once a year or so and remove organisations that have sort of flown the coop, would that be correct?

Mr ECCLES: I have a recollection of that general category of removal, if not the specifics.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Premier, do any of your office staff have responsibility for oversight of the activities of lobbyists?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: No. That is a responsibility of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, but what my office does is comply with the appropriate guidelines that are in place. For instance, if an invitation comes into my office to meet with somebody, there is an indication as to whether or not it has come from a lobbyist or whether it has come, for instance, from the corporate affairs manager or some other official within a public company.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Indeed, there is an obligation on a registered lobbyist to identify the fact that he or she or the firm they represent is on the register of lobbyists when they seek a meeting with you or a member of your Cabinet or indeed an official of your Government, is there not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: That is what my staff seek to ensure happens as they go about assisting me in my activities.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I take from that, Premier, that if such an indication is not given by a firm that seeks a meeting with you, that your office would be proactive in asking the question before they get in the door to see you?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Absolutely. Can I just say generally that as a matter of practice lobbyists do not generally come to any meetings that I have. If an organisation like the Bus and Coach Association or a public company or someone else wanted to come and see me, they come and see me. I have never understood why you would bring a lobbyist with you to those meetings. [Time expired.]

Edit.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Can we go back to the regulation of lobbyists? One section of the Lobbyists Codes of Conduct, section 7, deals with principles of engagement with government representatives. Are you familiar with that section Premier, or Mr Eccles?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I have to confess, I cannot call it to mind. I assume, as you have been out of the room, that you can; so I will listen to questions.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Subsection 7.1 tells us that lobbyists shall observe a number of principles when engaging with Government representatives. As the person with the delegated authority of the Premier, Mr Eccles, are you familiar with those principles enshrined in section 7 of the code of conduct?

Mr ECCLES: I am rapidly familiarising myself with them.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: You might say that we are pulling the code of conduct up onto our tablet screens now.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: You have both pulled them up. Excellent. Mr Eccles, what resources does your department throw at ensuring that these principles are abided by, by registered lobbyists?

Mr ECCLES: I am not sure there is any dedicated resource to secure the compliance with the principles. It is largely directed to the lobbyists themselves to, in good faith, determine the way they are going to conduct themselves. They will have regard to the principles in the code. So we do not seek to make judgments around exaggeration of claims—taking 7.1 (c) as an example. We do not have the capacity to reach into every lobbyist, and every engagement by lobbyists with Government, to determine that these principles are ruthlessly complied with.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Can I take from that, Mr Eccles, that self-regulation is the order of the day when it comes to ensuring that the principles of engagement with Government representatives, as outlined in the code, are complied with?

Mr ECCLES: I think self-regulation plays an important part. Nonetheless, there is a requirement on all of those within Government to draw to the attention of the department where they believe that lobbyists have offended the principles. So I think it is a balanced approach rather than an approach which entirely delegates that responsibility to the lobbyists. We do not operate as an independent police force which is out riding the boundaries; we rely upon both the lobbyists and Government representatives to ensure that these principles are upheld.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Section 7.2 provides an obligation on a lobbyist to comply with these principles, does it not?

Mr ECCLES: Yes, it does.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: So that is in the realm of self-regulation, but you have told us that government complements that self-regulation with activity of its own to ensure that lobbyists comply with these principles. Is that a fair statement to draw from your earlier answer?

Mr ECCLES: If you mean by "activity" the responsibility of those who are on the other end of a lobbyist to have regard to these principles and to draw attention where these principles are not complied with, then yes.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: And, as I said before, there is a good reason that everyone from Minister to public servant should do so, and it is called the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which, I say again, this year has been resourced so that it has its biggest ever budget.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Mr Eccles, as the person with the delegated authority from your Premier—

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: On the legislation.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Indeed. As the person with the delegated authority to ensure that the code is complied with, have you received complaints from within the Government about breaches, or potential breaches or alleged breaches, of the principles of engagement with Government representatives?

Mr ECCLES: Not to my recollection.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Not to your recollection. Will you take it on notice and give it a definitive answer?

Mr ECCLES: I will.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: But there are none that spring to mind today?

Mr ECCLES: No.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: If you were alerted to clear, emphatic breaches of these principles, would they be grounds, potentially, for deregistration from the lobbyist register?

Mr ECCLES: I would need to remind myself what the sanctions are within the code that would relate to any offence.

The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY: This is budget estimates, not hypotheticals.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Could I take you to section 8.3, Mr Eccles?

Mr ECCLES: That is fairly unambiguous, Mr Foley.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Unambiguous?

Mr ECCLES: It would seem to be.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: But I just make the point that it does say "may".

Mr ECCLES: It may, at my discretion. Of course, before even thinking about entertaining my discretion I would get the advice of my general counsel as to the appropriate interpretation to be placed upon both the conduct and the sanction.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Section 8.3 gives you the power to remove from the register of lobbyists a part or all of the details of the lobbyist, does it not?

Mr ECCLES: Yes it does.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: That is the heaviest penalty within the code of conduct, is it not?

Mr ECCLES: It would seem so.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: The Premier refers to other potential avenues where there is misconduct by a lobbyist or a government official on the end of lobbying. That is to go to the ICAC, is it not?

Mr ECCLES: Yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: But in terms of the code itself, the biggest stick you wield—

Mr ECCLES: Is removal.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: —is removal from the lobbyists register?

Mr ECCLES: Yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: But you have not had cause, to date, to remove anyone for a breach of the principles of engagement with government representatives, have you?

Mr ECCLES: I have no recollection of that, and because of the seriousness of the sanction I expect that that recollection would be present if I had.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Indeed. The removals that have occurred to date have been for a failure to keep up with the annual paperwork returns required at section 5, is that correct?

Mr ECCLES: They are certainly the ones that come to mind as a category of removal.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Section 7.1 provides five principles outlined at paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e), does it not?

Mr ECCLES: Yes, it does.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Do you give all of those principles equal weight in administering the code of conduct?

Mr ECCLES: There is no basis within the code for me to apportion weight to any one over the other. They appear to have equal weight.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Could I take you to section 7.1 (d)? That tells us that lobbyists shall keep strictly separate from their duties and activities as lobbyists any personal activity or involvement on behalf of a political party, does it not?

Mr ECCLES: Yes it does.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: What do you do, Mr Eccles, to enforce section 7.1 (d)? Do you proactively or do you deal with complaints if and when they arise?

Mr ECCLES: I cannot recall any incidents of either proactivity on my part, which would be probably at the instigation of my general counsel, who keeps probably a closer watch on my behalf on my responsibilities under the code.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: But if you received a complaint—

Mr ECCLES: Yes, if I received a complaint then clearly that would be assessed.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: By you and your general counsel?

Mr ECCLES: Yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: And potentially, if a complaint was upheld, the strongest sanction that you could apply is to remove a lobbyist from the register?

Mr ECCLES: That is correct.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Mr O'Farrell, you hold a seat on the State Executive of the Liberal Party by virtue of your office as leader of the State parliamentary Liberal Party, do you not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: That is true, and what is also true is that, happily, I rarely, if ever, attend.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: There are many of your fellow members of the State Executive of the Liberal Party who work as lobbyists, are there not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I can think of one. I am not sure how many others do.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Let us start with one. Who is the one who springs to mind?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I presume it is the same one you are thinking of.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Who would that be?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Mr Photios?

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I will get to him later.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I thought you were thinking of him.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Country vice-president Holly Hughes works for lobbying company Australian Public Affairs, does she not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I do not know that myself as a matter of my interest, but I am happy to take your advice on that.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Felicity Wilson, female vice-president, works as an in-house lobbyist for Caltex, does she not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I did not know what her job was. Thank you.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: President Chris Downy heads up the Australian Wagering Council, does he not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I have read that, yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Young Liberal president Simon Fontana works as the Senior Manager, Corporate Affairs, eBay Australia and New Zealand, does he not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I did not know that, but I am happy to take your word on it.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: He used to work for Pru Goward.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I knew that.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: She could have done with him the other day.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Pru did very well.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: The Urban representative Damien Jones works for lobbyist CPR, does he not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I again take your word on that. I did not know that.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: As you identified earlier, Mr Michael Photios, an Urban representative on the State Executive, runs the lobbyist firm PremierState, does he not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I knew that, yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: And his fellow Urban representative, a Mr Joseph Tannous, owns a firm called 1st State. Are you aware of that?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I think I was aware that he was a lobbyist. I did not know the name of the company. Thank you.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Are you confident that all of your colleagues on the State Executive who engage in lobbying activities are complying with, first, the Lobbying of Government Officials Act 2011?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: They are required to by the law and if there is a failure by them to do so there are penalties that apply. But I make the point that I have made time and time again in Parliament and outside of Parliament: I have no idea why people employ lobbyists. If people want to come and see members of my Government they do not need to waste dollars with lobbyists, they simply need to ring up and seek an appointment.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Why do people set themselves up as lobbyists?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: It is a trend that has existed in this country increasingly for the past 20 years. I think it was pioneered by Walt Secord's friend on the other side, Bruce Hawker. A former press secretary to John Hewson created Parker and Parker. And I think that for a while they almost had the field to themselves. But increasingly we have seen an explosion not only in this State but around the country. For the life of me, while there clearly is a business model, I do not know why people waste their money on them.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Can I put to you that what is new is the growth in representation of registered lobbyists on the State Executive of your party? That is not something that occurred under Mr Hawker or Labor aligned lobbyists, is it?

The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY: They just ran the show.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: If we want to discuss Bruce Hawker's relationship with State and Federal governments I am happy to do so, but I suspect it is a much closer relationship than anything that exists in New South Wales.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: So you are confident that the seven lobbyists to whom I have referred, who sit with you on the State Executive of the Liberal Party, are meeting their legal obligations under the lobbyists code of conduct?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I would expect them to meet their legal obligations or face the consequences.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: And what are the consequences?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: There is a range of consequences that you have been going through.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Including removal—

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Including removal.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: —from the lobbyists register?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Which presumably means removal of livelihood.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Mr Eccles, I take you to section 7.1 (b), which provides:

Lobbyists shall use all reasonable endeavours to satisfy themselves of the truth and accuracy of all statements and information provided to parties whom they represent, the wider public, governments and agencies.

What, if anything, do you and your general council do to enforce that principle of engagement under the code?

Mr ECCLES: I would imagine it is the same as in relation to section 7.1 (d). We would rely principally upon the advice of others as to whether that principle has been offended.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: If a complaint came to you regarding untruthful or inaccurate statements provided to parties that lobbyists represent and/or engage with, would you deal with those complaints?

Mr ECCLES: Yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: And the sanction, once again, is covered by section 8 of the code, which includes the potential to be removed from the lobbyists register, does it not?

Mr ECCLES: Yes it does.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Section 7.1 (c) bars lobbyists from exaggerating how influential they are, does it not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: It seems like an oxymoron to me, but it does.

Mr ECCLES: Yes it does.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Are you aware of any exaggerations or extravagant claims made by lobbyists on the register about their ability to deliver results?

Mr ECCLES: I would imagine that exaggeration and extravagance is often in the eyes of the beholder. "Misleading" is a slightly more definitive concept to try to judge. Exaggeration and extravagance is, I would imagine, a bit more difficult for me to make a meaningful assessment.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: To pick up Mr Foley's question, which I think he may have got slightly wrong, I am not sure whether he is suggesting that they are exaggerating or making elaborate claims on the register.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: No.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: That is what your question said. I think the register is simply a straight out list of who, and phone number, address, all those sorts of things.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Yes. In the conduct of business as a lobbyist, if a lobbyist were to say, "I sit on the State Executive of the Liberal Party; therefore I can deliver results for you if you pay me to be your lobbyist", would that draw your attention as a potential breach or something warranting investigation under section 7.1 (b) of the code of conduct?

Mr ECCLES: I am not sure it falls into the category of being an extravagant claim.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I missed the claim. Can you repeat it?

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I will ask you, Premier—

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: No, I am just interested in the claim. I am happy for you to ask Mr Eccles questions.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: For example, if a lobbyist was to say, "I sit on the State Executive of the Liberal Party. I can deliver results for my clients by virtue of holding office on the State Executive of the Liberal Party", do you think that matter would be covered under section 7.1 (b) of the code?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: That is potentially a matter I would refer to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Mr Eccles, in your experience over the past two years as the man with delegated authority to regulate the activities of lobbyists, has any such alleged breach been drawn to your attention?

Mr ECCLES: My recollection is that no-one has brought my attention to anything as it relates to a breach of the principles of engagement, including a breach of section 7.1 (c).

Edit.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Premier, your colleague on the State executive, Mr Joseph Tannous, is a man known to you?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Yes; not particularly well, but yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: He currently sits on the Federal target seats committee of the Liberal Party alongside many State and Federal party leaders, he tells us. Are you aware of that?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: No.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Do you sit on the Federal target seats committee of the Liberal Party?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Happily, no.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: He managed your successful campaigns in Drummoyne and Strathfield in 2011, did he not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I thought that the eminent president of the Senate managed those campaigns but if others are claiming credit, good on them.

Dr JOHN KAYE: Who?

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Don.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I thought Don was managing those campaigns.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Perhaps it is an exaggeration. You are not aware that Mr Tannous claims that he managed the election winning results in the seats of Drummoyne and Strathfield in 2011?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I am not aware of that claim.

The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: There was a lot of help, especially from Labor. They managed our campaign for us.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I wish I'd thought of that.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I will give you that one, Ms Cusack. You are aware that Mr Tannous has established a company and had it registered by your department on the register of lobbyists and that term is called 1st State Government and Corporate Relations; are you aware of that?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: You told me that and I accepted that the last time you raised it.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Could I read you a statement from Joseph Tannous's LinkedIn profile? I would be happy to table it and give a copy to the Premier and his director general if they seek it. It states:

 Joseph currently holds a number of senior positions within the NSW Liberal Party, in these roles, he enjoys constant contact with elected representatives from across the political divide enabling him to attain the desired results for his clients.

Do you think that statement is a breach of the Lobbyist Code of Conduct, Premier?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I will defer to the director general. It is not a statement I am aware of. I notice he said "across the political divide," so it seems to be a slight exaggeration, but I will defer to the director general.

Mr ECCLES: Mr Foley, in view of the seriousness of the sanctions that attach to any conclusion about principles being offended I would rather not provide a view without proper consideration and having regard to the advice of my General Counsel around any specific matters you raise.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Will you seek advice on whether Mr Tannous is in breach of the Lobbyist Code of Conduct?

Mr ECCLES: You have drawn to my attention a particular circumstance and we have a responsibility to review that.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Would you like me to provide you with the document I am quoting from?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: If it is LinkedIn it is on social media.

Mr ECCLES: I should be able to find that.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I did not think you were a LinkedIn person?

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I am not.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Nor am I.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I have copies for the witnesses and all members of the Committee of the LinkedIn profile of Joseph Tannous.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Can I update something raised earlier. I do not, thankfully, go to executive meetings of the Liberal Party except on rare occasions. There are 21 members of the New South Wales Liberal Party State Executive. Three of the 21 are registered lobbyists, as I understand it: Holly Hughes, Michael Fotios and Joe Tannous.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Let us deal with Mr Tannous; we can get to the others later. For a lobbyist to boast of the fact that he holds a position within the New South Wales Liberal Party that enables him to attain the desired results for his clients is surely a breach of the Lobbyist Code of Conduct, is it not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I will defer to the director general, whose responsibility it is to make decisions on these matters.

The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: It is called due process, Luke. It is a really novel concept.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Earlier in answer to a question you said that if statements were being made that members of the State executive of the Liberal Party were able to achieve results for clients—

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I think you said "access" in that question.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Will you refer Mr Tannous to the Independent Commission Against Corruption?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I will take advice from the director general. However, I think your question change slightly. You should check the transcript.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I am happy for you to clear it up.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: We will wait for the transcript.

The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: The point Mr Foley is making is not here. It says move constantly into the future.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Mr Chairman, will you please shut Ms Cusack up?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: It is a good point. The reference to which Mr Foley is referring.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I will read it.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Which page?

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: The first page, the subsection headed "Joseph Tannous' Summary". It states:

Joseph currently holds a number of senior positions within the NSW Liberal Party, in these roles, he enjoys constant contact with elected representatives from across the political divide enabling him to attain the desired results for his clients.

Surely if that is a truthful statement it is a breach of section 7.1 (d) of the NSW Government Lobbyist Code of Conduct. Is that not true, Mr Eccles?

Mr ECCLES: I refer to my previous answer that I do not intend to engage in a running commentary about a breach or otherwise without giving it proper consideration.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Premier, is it true that Mr Tannous's occupancy of senior positions within the Liberal Party enables him to attain the desired results for his clients?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I have seen no evidence of that. However, as I said, until you raised it with me I did not know the name of his business. I am unaware whether I have dealt with any of his clients. I have no responsibility to review his business model or to undertake an annual review of his outcomes. Your question is based on something that I do not know.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: But if the fact that a registered lobbyist held office in the Liberal Party and that the occupancy of that office enabled him to achieve results, would that not be improper and a breach of the NSW Government Lobbyist Code of Conduct?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: If there was any evidence of that.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Mr Eccles, if Mr Tannous's statements are an exaggeration or a boast, would that be a breach of subsection 7.1 (c)?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I think the director general said he would take advice on that.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Mr Eccles, why does it fall to the Opposition and the media to raise issues regarding potential breaches of the NSW Government Lobbyist Code of Conduct? Why are no resources applied to ensuring that registered lobbyists, in particular those who also hold office in the Liberal Party, are in full compliance with the code of conduct?

Mr ECCLES: We certainly welcome the contribution of the Opposition to our practice. That is the first point. The second point is again that we rely on our informants—those most directly exposed to lobbyist activity—to give us the primary information against which we can make a judgment about compliance with the code. That is probably as much as I can say.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I also ask you to look at the 1st State Government and Corporate Relations website and the statements made there about Mr Tannous's political influence and how that assists his clients. Will you undertake to look at that?

Mr ECCLES: We will examine all the matters that you have drawn to my attention.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I have a copy of Mr Tannous's company client list.

The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY: Is that from the register?

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Yes. One of the clients is Dell Australia Pty Limited. Mr Tannous lobbies for Dell Australia. Premier, are you aware that Dell was the first of two companies put on former Minister Greg Pearce's new $93 million IT procurement panel?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: No. However, if we want to make declarations I can say that about four years ago I bought a Dell computer through the post. It sits—these days regrettably broken—on my son's desk in his bedroom. I paid full tote odds for it on my credit card and I am sure I have the receipt.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Are you aware that procurement through that panel will be between $92 million and $93 million per annum according to the 2011-12 figures from the Department of Finance and Services' annual report?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: No, but I am aware that the last time I checked Dell is a worldwide producer of computers. I recollect that I might have seen in the Financial Review in recent times a report that it could be the subject of a takeover. Am I surprised that other computer providers are on a procurement panel not only in New South Wales but also in other States? No, not really. The issue is whether they were appropriately appointed. If you have evidence that they were not, please present it.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Are you aware that Dell was recently awarded a $455,000 contract by the Land and Property Management Authority and that that contract was not put out to tender?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Happily not. One of the changes we made is that my Ministers are not directly involved in the awarding of tenders by Government.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Who is the Minister responsible for the Land and Property Management Authority?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: It would be the Minister for Primary Industries.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: It would be the Minister for Finance and Services, would it not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Thank you. It is Minister Constance.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Are you aware that former Minister Greg Pearce was the Minister in charge of the authority when Mr Tannous's client Dell won a $455,000 contract without a tender?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: No, I was not aware of the fact that there was no tender, but I am happy to get advice.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Are you aware that Mr Tannous lobbies for the China Railway 15 Bureau Group Corporation?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: No, but I am happy to take your word for it.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: You have had some dealings with China Railway 15 Bureau Group Corporation in the past, have you not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I am aware of all the China Rail groups, including the China Railway 15 Bureau Group Corporation. China Rail started life as—

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: A People's Liberation Army unit.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Yes. It was broken into different numbered businesses and they were told to get on with the job of building not only a first-class rail system in China but also to see what they could do around the world.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Indeed, on a trip to Beijing you announced that the China Railway 15 Bureau Group Corporation would open an office in New South Wales—its first in Australia.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Indeed, because it was very excited about our $60-billion infrastructure program, which among other things involves the North West Rail Link. Your side of politics committed to that project, but it now seems to oppose it. The company was keen to see what opportunities existed to expand its business not only in New South Wales but also across the rest of the country.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: It has indeed set up here and is now represented by Mr Tannous, who lobbies for the company.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I did not know that until you pointed it out. Are you suggesting that he was involved at the time I was in China announcing that the China Railway 15 Bureau Group Corporation was coming to Sydney?

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Well—

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I suspect not.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Now that you mention it, Mr Tannous also owns Three 888 Corporation Pty Limited, which looks like a holding company that owns 1st State Government and Corporate Relations. Mr Tannous tells us that he is the owner of the Three 888 Corporation and that that company assists Australian companies with business opportunities in China and India.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I understand you want to move on, but are you alleging that when I went to China and I announced that the China Railway 15 Bureau Group Corporation was coming here to open an office that that was in some way or another connected to Mr Tannous?

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I have made no allegations.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Thank you. What was your question?

The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: He is all smear and no allegation. That is the problem.

Dr JOHN KAYE: Point of order—

CHAIR: The member should restrain herself.

The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: Can I make a point?

CHAIR: No.

The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE: No, not unless you want to take a point of order.

The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: He is sitting there sledging and smashing people who cannot respond.

CHAIR: You cannot make comments.

The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE: You are making a comment. If you want to take a point of order then do so.

CHAIR: Let Mr Foley continue his question.

The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: It is provocative.

The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE: That is dreadful, is it not?

CHAIR: Many estimates committees are provocative.

The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: We have sat here and listened to this for two hours.

CHAIR: That is why we have estimates committees—to be provocative.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: To the point of order: At times over the years I have been provocative. I believe that I have been anything but provocative today.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: You have been incredibly quiet and polite.

The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: Do not be so fragile when somebody interjects.

CHAIR: Cease interjecting or I will have to have a member leave the Committee.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: You were asking about Three 888 Corporation Pty Ltd.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Have you had any dealings with Mr Tannous? Have any of your staff had any dealings with Mr Tannous over the years concerning your trips to China and your Government's initiatives to increase trade with China?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Not to the best of my knowledge, no.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Could you get back to us with a definitive answer on that one?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: To the extent I can, yes.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Are you aware that Mr Tannous lobbies for Theiss Australia?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: No, but I did look at the list as you were having your slight altercation. I saw that he lobbies for a number of companies including Polio Australia and companies I have never heard of.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: It is a long list, perhaps attracted by his boast that he can attain desired results for his clients by virtue of his occupancy of senior offices in the Liberal Party.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I say again: I have no idea why people and companies waste their money employing lobbyists.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Mr Tannous's client, Theiss Australia, was part of a winning consortium that, last month, won a $1.15 billion North West Rail Link tunnelling contract.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I certainly know that Theiss Australia was one of the three successful companies that went through a public tender process with the strongest possible probity arrangements around it. Are you suggesting that somehow or other that was influenced by a lobbyist? Surely you are not that stupid.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I make no suggestions, Premier.

The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: You are trying to destroy someone.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I am pointing to Mr Tannous's statements and the answers that you and your director general have given me this morning regarding the principles of engagement with Government representatives, and I am asking whether the statements that Mr Tannous makes in writing on his Linkedin profile and on the 1st State website are evidence of a breach of the lobbyist code of conduct.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Mr Eccles has made the point that he will get considered advice on that. What I am saying to you, in relation to the two examples of companies that you have raised, is that if you have evidence suggesting that somehow or other their success has been unduly influenced, present it. Otherwise you are simply smearing, in the one case a world-wide computer company, and in the other case—I suspect the ownership of Theiss Australia has changed—a construction company that helped build this State and country.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I make no smear, Premier, I simply—

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: You do, very cleverly. You underestimate—or pretend to underestimate—what you are doing. Mr Eccles is going to give you advice in relation to your first point but let us not start to smear companies like Thiess Australia. Many people around this country have fond memories of Thiess Australia helping to build and expand our nation. You make no allegation but it is a clear smear.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I think Theiss Australia is a fine company.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Thank you for now saying that.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I think they would be well advised to drop this character, Mr Tannous.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: You know my view. I do not know why people spend money—in my view it is a waste of money—on lobbyists.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: It reflects badly on otherwise very reputable companies when the lobbyist they engage boasts that his occupancy of high office in the Liberal Party, sitting alongside State and Federal leaders delivers the results for his clients. That unfairly damages reputable companies, does it not?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: So why are you trying to smear Theiss Australia and Dell as part of this process today?

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I am asking why you do not punt Mr Tannous—

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: You are smearing.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: —from the lobbyist register.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: That is an issue that the director general has already given you an answer on.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I have presented evidence of the clear breach of the principles of engagement with Government representatives that are on display.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: The director general has said that he will take advice and come back on that.

The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY: How many years did you sit with Eddie Obeid in the Labor Party?

CHAIR: That brings us to the conclusion of this first part of our estimates hearing.

Edit.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: What is your media adviser, Mark Tobin, doing minding the Liberal candidate for Greenway, Mr Jaymes Diaz?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: He has taken leave without pay or leave to go and do so.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Did you see him on television in dark shades and a hoodie frogmarching Diaz away from the cameras? Did you see that?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: It is very hard to see Tob's on television these days, he has lost so much weight.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: He looked like a nightclub bouncer: he grabbed the handsel of his shirt and led this bloke away from the camera. It was extraordinary.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: So people are not entitled to engage in political activities in their own time? Is that what you are contending, Mr Foley?

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Not at all.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: That is a very novel approach coming from a former assistant secretary of the Labor Party.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Do your staff not have more important things to do than mind this nincompoop Greenway candidate Jaymes Diaz?

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: So you are saying that political staff should not be able to access their legal holiday entitlements? The Labor Party today is just extraordinary.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I am not saying that at all.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: You are.

The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX: You are.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: Of course they should.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: You are. You want to deny people holidays. Does the union movement know this?

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I think Mark Tobin—

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Vote for Luke Foley and lose your holidays.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: —is a very important man in the running of this State and he has better things to do working with you to run the State—

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Mark Tobin is demonstrating the benefits—

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: —rather than putting this nincompoop—

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: —of health and fitness.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: —Diaz into a safe house under lock and key—

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Mark Tobin is going to ensure that future taxpayers have to pay less money—

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: —for the next four weeks.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: —for the health system.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: That is what I think.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: And the sooner you join him the better.