Jeff Kennett’s former chief of staff is a paid lobbyist while serving on the Administrative Court of Appeals Australian politics

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A former Jeff Kennett chief of staff has remained a paid lobbyist for more than two years after being appointed to the appeals court.

John Griffin, a part-time member of the AAT, is on the federal lobbyist registry and serves as the executive director in three states of the liberal government relations firm Barton Deakin.

Although Griffin says he explained the role prior to his appointment to the attorney general, the department failed to alert the AAT to the role, saying that such work “could conceivably create a conflict of interest for an AAT member”. .

Labor has taken the revelation as further evidence of a potential conflict of interest with members appointed to the tribunal under the Liberal government after another former Liberal employee left a lobbying position during the AAT.

Griffin worked for not only Kennett but also federal liberals, including former Senator Robert Hill and former opposition leaders John Howard and John Hewson.

In February 2019, Griffin was named a part-time Level 3 member of the AAT, earning a fee of $ 813 for every day worked.

Griffin’s appointment spans a number of departments that review government decisions, including Freedom of Information, Migration, Disability Insurance, Social Services, and Veterans Appeals.

Despite the part-time position, Griffin continued his tenure with Barton Deakin as a general manager in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania started in October 2011.

Corresponding the Barton Deakin website, Griffin is “well positioned to assist clients with state and Tasmanian government affairs” and “will continue to campaign as a senior political strategist and campaign advisor to liberal and national parties in federal and federal campaigns.”

The AAT law stipulates that part-time members “may not engage in paid activities that, in the President’s opinion, are or may be contrary to the proper performance of his duties”. However, the law only requires an explanation of potential conflicts if they arise in individual cases.

Griffin told Guardian Australia, “Prior to my appointment to the AAT, I formally submitted my employment status with Barton Deakin to the AAT team in the Attorney General’s office,” a statement that included that he and the firm were on the lobbyist register.

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An AAT spokesman said the tribunal was “unaware of the nature of Member Griffin’s sideline activity” as private interests declared during the appointment process “are not communicated to the tribunal.”

Part-time members are under no obligation to notify or seek approval from outside work, despite having an “ongoing obligation” regarding conflict, the spokesman told Guardian Australia.

“The role of general manager of an organization listed on the Australian Government’s Lobbyists Register could potentially create a conflict of interest for an AAT member.

“The President will seek additional information from Member Griffin.

“As a part-time member, Member Griffin is assigned work when it is available and is not routinely assigned to work. Member Griffin completed a case as part of a two-member panel in 2019-20.

“While members are required to disclose potential conflicts, the AAT is in the process of introducing an annual disclosure process for all members.”

There is no evidence that Griffin had any real or perceived conflict in any particular case.

Guardian Australia believes Griffin’s workload at the AAT has been light as he led less than 40 hours of AAT hearings in 2019 and early 2020 and has been out of work since Q1 2020. Griffin has advised the AAT that he will not seek reappointment if its term expires in February.

Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said the coalition had “appointed a liberal buddy to the AAT who they knew was a full-time lobbyist.”

“This is the second time in less than a year that a Liberal pal who was appointed to the tribunal has been debunked as a lobbyist,” he told Guardian Australia.

In March, a Senate committee heard that a part-time member of the AAT, Tony Barry, a former associate of Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy, and Malcolm Turnbull, when he was still a federal opposition leader, had his role as an advisor to a private after it was revealed he was being considered Registered lobbyist. The Senate heard the AAT president “express a preliminary view that it was not appropriate” to also work as a lobbyist.

Labor has also criticized the Morrison administration for appointing numerous former MPs and staff to the AAT, including Liberal MP Jane Prentice and former Liberal Senate President Stephen Parry.

Dreyfus said the coalition had “turned the Administrative Appeals Tribunal into a program of work for the Liberal Party and the Australians are paying the bill”.


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