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New ICAC public inquiry into lobbying to start 5 August

Thursday 18 July 2019

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) will hold a public inquiry commencing on Monday 5 August 2019 as part of a new investigation it is conducting into the regulation of lobbying, access and influence in NSW (Operation Eclipse).

The public inquiry follows a discussion paper the Commission released in April, Enhancing the democratic role of direct lobbying in NSW, which addressed principles of transparency, integrity and fairness concerning or associated with lobbying practices in NSW. Submissions in response to the discussion paper can be viewed on the Commission’s website.

The Commission last examined lobbying practices in its 2010 report, Investigation into corruption risks involved in lobbying (Operation Halifax). Following that investigation, the Parliament enacted the Lobbying of Government Officials Act 2011 (LOGO Act), which introduced a new regime for regulating lobbying activities in NSW.

Operation Eclipse will examine whether enhancements to the LOGO Act may be required, as well as the broader approach to addressing risks associated with lobbying and influencing practices. The public inquiry seeks to address issues such as:

•    whether levels of trust in government could be enhanced by making certain lobbying activities more transparent
•    who should be required to register as a lobbyist
•    what records of lobbying activity should be kept and by whom
•    how to ensure fair and reasonable access to government
•    what interstate and overseas practices may be suitable for implementation in NSW.

Like Operation Halifax, Operation Eclipse differs from investigations usually conducted by the Commission in that it is not concerned with examining whether any particular individual may have engaged in corrupt conduct, but rather seeks to examine particular aspects of lobbying activities and the corruption risks involved in the lobbying of public authorities and officials.

The public inquiry will be held in the Commission's hearing room on Level 7, 255 Elizabeth Street, Sydney. ICAC Chief Commissioner the Hon Peter Hall QC will preside at the public inquiry, while Counsel Assisting the Commission will be Dr Nicholas Chen SC.

The inquiry will initially sit for two-to three days, and will then adjourn until October.

A witness list will be published closer to the August commencement date.

The Commission intends to live stream the proceedings in this public inquiry via its website, www.icac.nsw.gov.au.