EMBATTLED Finance Minister Greg Pearce introduced green slip reforms, expected to make insurance companies tens of millions of dollars, after meetings with the industry set up by controversial Liberal lobbyist Michael Photios’ firm, a trail of emails reveals.
Green slip change link to Finance Minister Greg Pearce’s Liberal mate Michael Photios
Mr Pearce also received hospitality from Suncorp – which publicly praised the reforms and is a client of Mr Photios – at the last Melbourne Cup.
Insurance companies are also set to benefit from Mr Pearce approving a 10 per cent green slip hike in January, just before pledging to cut green slip prices via his reforms.
It flies in the face of Premier Barry O’Farrell’s claims that anyone who employs lobbyists to lobby his government are “wasting their money”.
It comes as Mr Pearce enjoyed his first weekend of a month-long stress leave, sharing dumplings with his wife and friends at World Square.
Angry Coalition MPs yesterday questioned why Mr Pearce was given paid stress leave after it was found he misused travel entitlements for a function Mr Photios had organised in Canberra a fortnight ago.
“It’s a bit rich to send the Finance Minister on leave on budget week,” one MP said.
The emails obtained under freedom of information reveal Mr Photios’s firm PremierState organised meetings between the minister’s office and insurance giant Allianz, so Allianz could put forward proposals to restructure green slips, in December 2011 and May last year. Subsequent reforms – which cut accident victims’ entitlements – will be voted on in the upper house this week.
One of those meetings between Allianz, PremierState and the minister’s office featured Mr Photios’s business partner David Begg, who is married to Mr Pearce’s deputy chief of staff Natalie Ward.
An email from PremierState managing director of public policy Natalie Christiansen to Pearce staff member Kellie Blake, dated April 2012, says: “I write to request a meeting between our client, Allianz, and (Mr Pearce’s chief of staff) Ms Joanne McCafferty and (policy adviser) Mr Stephen Marriott … to discuss recommendations around reform under the CTP scheme.”
A series of emails followed, with Ms Blake saying “Joanne and Stephen would be happy to meet with Allianz representatives” but advising that the minister would be out of town, before a May 15 meeting was settled upon.
The December 2011 meeting with PremierState and Allianz occurred a month after Mr Pearce knocked back insurance companies’ requests to increase green slip prices.
“My company has assisted Suncorp, Allianz, Employers Mutual and the Australian Rehabilitation Providers’ Association with their relations with government … primarily with Mr Pearce’s office,” Mr Photios yesterday said.
Asked if his firm had helped get the insurance industry a great deal from Mr Pearce, Mr Photios said: “We represent our clients to the best of our ability.”
Under the controversial green slip reforms, children who are involved in car accidents will only be covered for five years of medical expenses and not for life.
The government claims its reforms will cut the cost of green slips by 15 per cent.
Mr Pearce’s spokesman yesterday confirmed Suncorp had hosted the minister at the Melbourne Cup, saying: “Members of parliament are routinely invited to numerous events on a regular basis.”