Greens spokesperson for democracy Senator Lee Rhiannon has warned that former trade minister Andrew Robb’s new job with Landbridge Group, who were awarded a 99 year lease over the Port of Darwin last year, may lead to a breach of the Ministerial Standards.
Statements by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) during the recent Estimates hearings suggests that the Prime Minister is mishandling former ministers taking jobs in the private sector.
DPMC confirmed during Estimates that the Prime Minister’s office did not ask for advice on the appointment of Ian Macfarlane as CEO of the Queensland Resources Council, although the Prime Minister allegedly told Mr Macfarlane he was ‘cool’ with it.
“After I asked questions in Estimates earlier this month, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet confirmed that the Prime Minister sought no departmental advice on Mr Macfarlane’s appointment, and could not answer any questions about how it was approved. The Prime Minister now owes us two explanations.
“Prime Minister Turnbull must confirm when he was made aware of Andrew Robb’s appointment, whether he sought advice from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet over whether or not the appointment could give rise to a potential breach of the Ministerial Standards.
“The Prime Minister also needs to reveal his plan for ensuring that Mr Robb does not advocate for the Landbridge Group on trade matters for another year. Doing so would be a clear breach of the Standards.
“Prime Minister Turnbull’s nonchalant attitude to Ian Macfarlane’s potential breach of the ministerial standards, which were brought in by Abbott in 2013, proves he has no regard for standards of integrity.
“There is no point in having a set of Ministerial Standards if the Prime Minister takes no notice of them, and if ministers and former ministers are not held to them.
“At the moment the standards are really only consulted or enforced when the government decides to, or when the opposition decides to whip up some outrage. These should be a vigorous set of standards used to hold ministers to a high standard of integrity, and they should be evenly applied and enforced.
“The Ministerial Standards are clear – ministers are banned from lobbying, advocating or having business meetings with members of the government, parliament, public service or defence force on any matters on which they have had official dealings as Minister in their last eighteen months in office.
“We desperately need legislated ethical standards for ministers, donations reform and a national corruption watchdog.