CCC’s extraordinary warning to candidates
Queensland's corruption watchdog has issued an extraordinary warning to every candidate that it is watching them amid a "blurring" of the lines between government and those who seek to influence it.
Crime and Corruption Commission chair Alan MacSporran has revealed the watchdog is actively monitoring political donations and closely watching the activities and associations of consultants, influencers and lobbyists in this "high-risk period".
"The lead-up to an election can be a high-risk period for elected officials and candidates," he writes in an open letter to every person contesting the October 31 poll.
"Individuals, corporations and groups of people with vested interests may attempt to exert undue pressure or seek to buy influence through exploiting personal associations and/or making donations to political parties or individual candidates to influence government decision-making or policy."
The thinly veiled swipe at both major parties came as LNP leader Deb Frecklington was forced to defend her attendance at political fundraisers and events attended by property developers.
It also follows revelations around private sector lobbyists who also do work for Labor, many of whom used to work for the Labor government. The practice has been defended by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
"The CCC's own intelligence assessment indicates that the lines between government and the private sector are blurring, with overlapping networks of association involving consultants, influencers, lobbyists and executives," Mr MacSporran wrote.
"That's why, in the lead-up to this election, the CCC is working proactively to assess and identify any activity or associations that may put the public interest at risk."
Pointing to new laws that ban donations by property developers, he said the CCC was also "collating information from various sources", including donations being made, to gain a better understanding of whether the laws could cause new corruption risks.
Ms Frecklington on Tuesday said she had done nothing wrong in attending functions with property developers, saying it was normal to go to dinners and meetings with a wide range of business leaders. However, she revealed she and her team were now complying with advice from LNP headquarters issued in August not to attend any fundraising events where prohibited donors would be.
"To ensure full compliance with the legislation and to avoid any perception that the event is a fundraiser attended by prohibited donors, please ensure that prohibited donors are NOT invited to private events and you avoid any such events where it is known that prohibited donors will be in attendance," the letter from party secretary Michael O'Dwyer said.
Ms Frecklington said she had seen the letter "and I will completely comply with that".
Almost $150,000 was given to her campaign from guests at the events, however Ms Frecklington said no property developers paid to attend and there has been no evidence of any of them making illegal donations to the LNP.
The Opposition Leader said she was unaware of any investigation or referral to the ECQ and characterised the party's raising of the matter with the agency as "seeking advice".
"It's on the ECQ website that prohibited donors can attend fundraising events, they just cannot donate," she said.
Asked whether developers had been encouraged to donate to the LNP via third parties, Ms Frecklington said: "absolutely not".
Mr MacSporran said political donations represented "particular risks" and elected officials and candidates "should be alert to the strategies and tactics that may be used by some in the private sector to buy or exert influence".
Mr MacSporran also warned the need for governments and the private sector to work together during the COVID recovery to "get things moving" could "open the doors to corruption".
He said the CCC was "working closely" with stakeholders to keep information of corruption risks in this area so it could take action where necessary. "I ask all candidates for the upcoming state election to be vigilant in ensuring that your actions do not compromise your integrity and maintain public confidence in the government of the day regardless of your political persuasion," he said.
DO'S AND DON'TS
What is banned?
Property developers are classed as prohibited donors in Queensland and cannot make political donations to any party under new laws seeking to limit corruption risks in state and local politics.
What is allowed?
Property developers can attend functions and fundraisers with politicians as long as they do not pay to attend and do not donate through a third party.
What has happened?
The LNP has forwarded information about fundraisers and functions attended by its MPs and property developers to the Electoral Commission Queensland. The LNP says none of the property developers made donations.
Originally published as CCC's extraordinary warning to candidates