LNP powerbroker Santo Santoro has a difficult decision to make. Photo: Glenn Hunt
Queensland LNP power broker and federal vice president Santo Santoro has six months to decide whether he wants to be a member of the party executive or a paid lobbyist.
Fairfax Media's The Australian Financial Review has reported the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet had given lobbyists a March 20 deadline to decide which role they wish to keep.
And last month Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced he would be making changes to government policy to ensure “that you can either be a powerbroker or a lobbyist, but you can't be both”.
Soon after Mr Abbott made the announcement, NSW Liberal state executive members and lobbyists Joe Tannous and Michael Photios said they would resign from their party roles.
The Queensland LNP banned lobbyists from being part of the state executive in 2011, but an attempt to instigate the directive at a national level failed in 2012.
Mr Santoro gave a “no comment” on Thursday when asked if he had made a decision, but it is understood that many in Mr Santoro's position are waiting for more detail on the policy to be released before making a choice.
Mr Abbott's move to ban lobbyists from the party executive is seen as a win for former LNP supporter Clive Palmer, who cited the issue when he resigned from the party last year.
Mr Palmer had campaigned heavily to build a train line from his mine site in the Galilee Basin to the Abbot Point port, but lost out to a joint proposal between Indian company GVK and Aurizon (formerly QR National). Aurizon is listed as one of Mr Santoro's firm's clients.
It was after losing the bid that Mr Palmer began to campaign against having lobbyists involved in the party executive, arguing it was a conflict of interest.
"You can't serve two masters and officials need to serve the party they are elected to represent, not corporate entities who may be paying them," Mr Palmer said last year.
"Party officials shouldn't monetise their positions at the expense of their members and the Australian community."
He continued his campaign during the federal election campaign, making it part of his eponymous party's platform.
But insiders say for many lobbyists involved in the party executive, the decision won't be a difficult one to make, considering the financial disparities between the two roles.