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Former ALP powerbroker working as lobbyist fo -

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Former ALP powerbroker working as lobbyist for Crown Casino

Anna Hipsley reported this story on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 08:09:00

PETER CAVE: The former national secretary of the ALP has been given a job managing government
relations for Crown Casino in Melbourne and Burswood Casino in Perth.

Karl Bitar was a key strategist for both the Rudd and Gillard governments.

Crown is staying tight-lipped about the appointment but critics say it's a clear conflict of
interest and there should be tougher restrictions on lobbyists.

Anna Hipsley reports from Melbourne.

ANNA HIPSLEY: Karl Bitar was Julia Gillard's campaign director during last year's poll.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says now he's working for the enemy.

NICK XENOPHON: This guy has inside information about the Government that Crown Casino effectively
just bought. He has gone from running the party to lobbying the party.

ANNA HIPSLEY: Crown says Mr Bitar will be responsible for managing the casino's relationship with
the Federal Government across a broad range of issues including tourism, infrastructure development
and responsible gaming.

Nick Xenophon says the timing of the appointment couldn't be worse with the Gillard Government
considering the findings of an inquiry into measures to tackle problem gambling.

NICK XENOPHON: It's just extraordinary that he would think it's appropriate that he can take up
this role to actually go head to head with all that inside information with the Government over
poker machine reform.

ANNA HIPSLEY: He wants tougher rules implemented to restrict politicians and government staffers
from lobbying for private parties for at least two years after they leave government employment.

NICK XENOPHON: Mr Bitar has cultivated contacts. He has got enormous inside knowledge of the
workings of government. I just think we need to look at what the US and the UK have done where if
you have had inside knowledge, if you've been part of the process of government at the highest
levels, as Mr Bitar has in the recent past, then it is inappropriate that they act as lobbyists for
at least two years.

ANNA HIPSLEY: But former Labor staffer Simon Banks says even if such rules were introduced, they
wouldn't apply to Karl Bitar.

SIMON BANKS: Karl wasn't employed by the Government. He was employed by the Australian Labor Party.
He was never employed as a member of ministerial staff.

ANNA HIPSLEY: Simon Banks is now a government lobbyist with firm Hawker Britton which has worked
with Clubs Australia and the Australian Hotels Association on poker-machine reform. He doesn't see
any problem with Karl Bitar's new job.

SIMON BANKS: Look, I think there is a genuine debate in the community about making sure that people
who have worked in and around government are not able to take advantage of quote unquote inside
information in order to get some advantage for their new employer. I understand those
considerations.

The Government has set up I think very clear parameters about the way in which ministers and staff
should behave and therefore it shouldn't really matter who the identity of the lobbyist is on the
outside.

ANNA HIPSLEY: Crown Casino would not provide any further comment, other than the short statement
detailing the appointment.

Calls to Karl Bitar by the ABC went unanswered.

PETER CAVE: Anna Hipsley reporting.