Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce have serious questions to answer about National Party president Larry Anthony’s clear conflict of interest as director of lobbying firm SAS Consulting Group, which represents companies with major stakes in coal and gas energy generation.
The National’s fixation on coal and Malcolm Turnbull’s dawdling on gas have resulted in the complete energy policy paralysis that continues to prevent the much-needed investment in energy production that could put significant downward pressure on power prices for Australians.
Another of SAS Consulting Group’s clients, Indue, runs the contentious cashless welfare card program. Indue has already been awarded tens of millions of dollars’ worth of Government contracts and a group of Nationals MPs is pushing for a major expansion of the welfare card program. Mr Anthony was also deputy chairman of Indue until 2013.
The clear conflict of interest caused by Mr Anthony’s positions did not simply disappear when he removed himself from the Australian Government Lobbyists Register.
When asked about this obvious conflict after becoming National Party president in 2015, even Mr Anthony himself conceded that he “might have to come off that” in reference to his SAS directorship.
The Lobbying Code of Conduct specifies that lobbying organisations must be registered. Mr Anthony is the part-owner and director of such an organisation.
The Code also stipulates that lobbyists must not be “a member of a state or federal political party executive”.
To claim that Mr Anthony removing his name from the register and claiming that he is not actively involved in direct lobbying makes a mockery of the obvious intent of the Code to prevent conflicts of interest.
Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce must insist that the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet thoroughly investigate all government contracts awarded to organisations represented by Mr Anthony’s lobbying firm.