BRIDIE JABOUR June 28, 2012
Santo Santoro...says he didn't offer to lobby for the ABC under a Liberal government. Photo: Andrew Sheargold
Former Howard minister and registered Queensland lobbyist Santo Santoro has denied claims by Lateline he offered to lobby for the ABC if the Liberal Party were to win the next federal election.
Lateline last night aired allegations Mr Santoro – one of the Liberal Party's vice presidents – approached managing director Mark Scott at a function in April and offered to lobby in the interests of the ABC.
Mr Santoro this afternoon released a two-line statement denying the allegations.
"I refer to claims currently in the public domain that I offered to professionally lobby for the ABC if there was a change in the federal government," he said.
"Such claims are incorrect."
Mr Scott has today refused to comment on the allegations and Lateline's executive producer has not returned this reporter's phone calls about Mr Santoro's denial.
Minutes after Mr Santoro sent out his release denying the allegation, billionaire Clive Palmer followed with a statement through PR firm Crook Publicity demanding the former Howard minister resign from his position as one of the Liberal Party's vice presidents.
“This sort of thing shouldn't go on with publicly funded bodies. Mr Santoro is a known critic of the ABC who, during his time as a senator, used parliamentary privilege to accuse it of 'shoddy journalism'," Mr Palmer said.
“I have been calling for paid lobbyists to be banned from the party's national executive.
“This is the perfect example of what I have been saying. Advances such as these are a disgrace for any political party and Mr Santoro should discontinue lobbying or resign from the Liberal Party executive immediately."
Mr Palmer's criticism comes on top of the strident criticism he made of Mr Santoro last night on Lateline.
"I would have interpreted that, if I'd been head of the ABC, as a threat. That if you don't employ me there'll be retributions and my criticism will become reality when the Liberals get in power," he said.
"That's how I would have interpreted it if I was head of the ABC. I think we're very lucky he didn't interpret it that way. And it's a national disgrace. This sort of thing shouldn't go on with publicly funded bodies."
In his home state of Queensland Mr Santoro works as a registered lobbyist, with clients including the Port of Brisbane and QR National.
The former Queensland state MP turned federal senator was forced to resign from the Howard government in 2007 after failing to properly declare his multiple shareholdings.