Premier Will Hodgman’s former key staffers now serving Airbnb, Catholic Church in key bills talks
The Tasmanian Premier’s long-serving former chief-of-staff and former press secretary are now lobbyists for Airbnb, the Catholic Archdiocese and Anglican Diocese — groups with keen interests in contentious legislation being developed by the Government.
- Two of Premier Hodgman’s key staffers are now lobbyists for Airbnb and churches
- Brad Stansfield and Brad Nowland joined Font PR after recently leaving politics
- That they’re now lobbyists on contentious legislation is a concern, says the Opposition
The Opposition labelled the situation as being “far too cosy”.
The register of lobbyists was updated on Wednesday to include Brad Stansfield and Brad Nowland, who were made partners at Hobart-based public relations firm Font PR last month.
They are listed along with Font’s managing director Becher Townshend as lobbyists for clients including Airbnb, the Catholic Archdiocese of Tasmania and the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania.
Mr Stansfield was Premier Hodgman’s chief of staff for eight years in opposition and government, leaving the role after this year’s state election.
He then worked for Finance Minister and Western Australian senator Mathias Cormann until shortly after the federal leadership spill.
Mr Nowland left the Liberal Government in late September, having spent most of his time as Mr Hodgman’s key press secretary and later working in the office of Treasurer Peter Gutwein.
Ministers, parliamentary secretaries and agency heads are not allowed to engage in lobbying on any matter they dealt with in their last 12 months in office, but the same rules do not apply to former staffers.
Both Mr Stansfield and Mr Nowland held their senior positions in Mr Hodgman’s office when the state’s short-stay accommodation regulations were eased in 2017.
But public consultation has just closed on new draft legislation that would impose significant fines on Airbnb and other short-stay accommodation providers for non-compliance.
It is understood Airbnb representatives and Mr Stansfield met with the Government on Thursday morning.
At a press conference, Housing Minister Roger Jaensch said he hoped to table short-stay accommodation legislation this month.
“At the moment, we have no plans to change that whatsoever and we believe there’s a good level of support for it,” he said.
Airbnb will give evidence at an Upper House inquiry into short-stay accommodation in Tasmania tomorrow.
Opposition spokeswoman Jo Siejka said it was concerning that Mr Stansfield and Mr Nowland would now be lobbying on key legislation.
“It’s far too cosy for the Premier’s former senior staff members to now be in the position of lobbying him on major government policies,” she said.
“There’s a clear conflict in the Premier’s former right-hand man [Mr Stansfield] now lobbying the Government on policies he would have been involved in developing.”
The ‘two Brads’ adding ‘political acumen’ to PR firm
Another Font PR client, the Catholic Church, has a stake in another draft bill being proposed by the Government, which would introduce potential prison time for priests who fail to report suspected cases of child abuse.
Brad Nowland, pictured with Treasurer Peter Gutwein, and Mr Stansfield were made partners at Font PR in September. (ABC News)
The Anglican Church, meanwhile, has upped its pressure on the Government over planned changes to the governance of cemeteries, with the Church labelling one part of the proposed legislation a “death tax”.
When Mr Stansfield and Mr Nowland were made partners at Font PR in September, Mr Townshend said the “two Brads” brought “political acumen and government experience” to the firm.
On its website, Font consultants are described as holding “particular expertise in government relations” and understanding “the mechanisms behind decisions made by government”.
In a statement, a Government spokesman said it was up to Font PR who the firm engaged as clients.
“There is a Tasmanian Government lobbying code of conduct. Our expectation is that all lobbyists abide by the code and make the appropriate declarations,” they said.
Mr Stansfield and Mr Nowland have been contacted for comment.