Liberal powerbroker found to have breached code – but O’Farrell Government refuses to take action

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Liberal Party powerbroker Joseph Tannous has been found to have breached the Lobbyist Code of Conduct – but no action will be taken against him despite Premier Barry O’Farrell stating he would potentially refer such a matter to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

The Opposition first raised the matter of Mr Tannous, who is owner and director of lobby firm 1st State Government and Corporate Relations and State Executive Member of the NSW Liberal Party, boasting about using his positions in the Liberal Party “to attain the desired results for his clients” during budget estimates.

Labor’s revelations forced the Director General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet Chris Eccles to investigate whether Mr Tannous had breached the Lobbyist Code of Conduct.

Despite Mr Tannous engaging law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth to prepare a 13 page submission in his defence, claiming his statements were “puffery”, Mr Eccles found Mr Tannous had breached section 7.1c of the Lobbyist Code of Conduct, which states:

Lobbyists shall not make misleading, exaggerated or extravagant claims about, or otherwise misrepresent, the nature or extent of their access to institutions of government or to political parties or to persons in those institutions.

However despite this clear breach, the Government has decided to use its discretionary power and not take any action against the Liberal Party powerbroker.

“While the Opposition welcomes the finding, we question the absence of a penalty for Mr Tannous,” Opposition Leader John Robertson said.

“Mr O’Farrell told budget estimates he would potentially refer the matter to the ICAC, so why has his government chosen not to take any action against Mr Tannous?

“This matter only reaffirms the view that Mr O’Farrell is either unwilling or unable to stand up to the powerful powerbrokers in the NSW Liberal Party.”

Labor Leader in the Legislation Council Luke Foley said: “It appears the Premier’s department only considered removing Mr Tannous from the Lobbyist Register or doing nothing in response to this breach, and chose to do nothing at all.”

“Why were other options not seriously considered, including suspending Mr Tannous from the Lobbyist Register, an audit of all his lobbying activities or referring him to the ICAC as contemplated by the Premier at the Estimates hearing.

“The activities of Mr Tannous warrant ongoing scrutiny by the O’Farrell Government and Department of Premier and Cabinet. They will most certainly continue to be scrutinised by the NSW Labor Opposition.”