The SMH reported today that Michael Photios has not only registered as a lobbyist, but also has one particularly big client - the Australian Hotels Association.
|He's the one on the right. Photo from news.com.au|
Now this would all be unremarkable but for the fact that Photios also has a "day job" - vice president of the Liberal State Executive.
It is truly extraordinary that anyone in the Liberals could possibly think this is a good idea.
Photios is, to say the least, a high ranking Liberal member. He's not just a party member, or a administrative employee - he is one step from being in charge of the "administrative wing" of the Liberals.
An "anonymous lobbyist" was quoted in the Herald article as saying that he "makes no secret of the fact that he has Barry's ear." Whether the speaker is in the know or just speculating, it would certainly be bizarre if it was any other way.
And of course, as the expression goes, they wouldn't be paying for it if it wasn't worth something.
How can the Liberal rules allow this? Most government employees (at all levels) have a code of conduct that compels them to conduct themselves in a apolitical fashion.
Now of course Photios cannot conduct his role apolitically, given that his roles is intrinsically political, but one would have thought that he must compelled to act only in the Liberal party's interests.
Presumably, of course, the Liberal party has no such rule. He isn't a government employee, so he's not breaking any of those rules.
But the main question I have is how anyone the Liberal party cannot have a problem with the situation.
The Hotel Lobby is an disproportionately powerful lobby in NSW, to the detriment of the entire state. Sadly, it appears that their influence still runs deep in NSW.
The Liberal Party has already gotten off to a bad start on this front by opposing Gillard and Wilkie's pokie reforms.
On one hand, you can understand that the state Liberals need to be in song with the Federal counterparts on this issue. O'Farrell may well have gotten the word from Abbott that his support is expected.
But surely he should know better than to think that no one would mind Photios being on the Hotel lobby's payroll. Pokies and the hotel lobby generally are a sensitive topic in NSW.
The old Labor government stank of corruption. The two lobby groups most closely connected with that perceived corruption were development and hotels.
When the next election comes around, the Coalition surely wants to be seen as fundamentally different to the previous government.
I wrote previously that Coalition just needs to govern cautiously and avoid upsetting people, and they will probably be guaranteed at least 2 terms.
There is probably nothing that will make the Coalition government seem more like the government before than being seen to be cosying up to the Hotel lobby.
And there is nothing that could make the Coalition seem corrupted to be more than having one of their highest ranking members on the Hotel lobby's payroll.
Surely O'Farrell is going to show some political common sense and deal with this issue before it becomes a millstone around his government's neck.