Subject: Stuart Robert
THE HON. MARK DREYFUS QC, MP
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
TUESDAY, 9 FEBRUARY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Stuart Robert
KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Good morning and welcome to the program this morning. Another minister in the Turnbull Government under pressure. This time it’s Stuart Robert, the Minister for Human Services. But it’s over a trip back in 2014 when he was an Assistant Minister in the Defence portfolio. He says it was in a private capacity, a trip that he made alongside a friend of his for the signing of a mining contract. Labor though is not convinced, it is continuing its focus on Stuart Robert today. With me today is the Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus. Mark Dreyfus, thanks for your time. I want to start with what Stuart Robert did wrong. Is there a chance here that when he got there in a private capacity, that the Chinese company officials and so on went further than he would have anticipated and basically got caught up in this unintentionally?
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: He has misused his public office. I think that’s absolutely clear to anyone that’s looking at this. You only have to look at the photos, he knew what he was doing. I don’t accept for a moment that he went in a private capacity. He’s there participating in a signing ceremony, standing behind an Australian flag, presenting a certificate to a senior Communist Party official, who is connected with the Chinese mining company, lining up with the dignitaries. That’s all lending his office, misusing his office and betraying the duty that he owes as an Australian minister.
GILBERT: But the question that I put to you again is that he goes potentially there, you don’t believe so, but he says that he went in a private capacity, paid for it himself, that he gets to the event and the Chinese officials go further than what he would have anticipated. Photographs, official titles and so on. That can be the approach of companies, and as you say, you mentioned the Chinese Communist official, they’re involved in most companies in China.
DREYFUS: The only proper approach was for him to not be there at all, not to lend his ministerial office to his friend’s event. This is an event for Paul Marks, a donor of over $2 million to the Liberal Party, and Stuart Robert is a friend of his and also an investor in his companies. He has allowed himself to be the Assistant Minister for Defence and go to this event. If we were in doubt about the wrong that has been done here, today we’ve had a press revelation that Mr Robert, while in Beijing met with a Chinese minister, the Vice Minister for Land and Resources, Wang Min, the next day. That’s reported on a Chinese language, Chinese government website, it’s been revealed in the Australian Financial Review today. Mr Robert needs to come into the Parliament and make a statement as to what he did, but more importantly, Mr Turnbull should not have to be dragged kicking and screaming to showing some leadership.
GILBERT: Well he’s already got his department looking into and assessing it in the context of the ministerial standards. That’s fair enough isn’t it?
DREYFUS: We can assess right here and now. All of the information is in Mr Robert’s hands. He can provide that in a manner of I would suggest hours, if not minutes. He knows what he did, he knows who invited him, he knows who paid for his trip. I don’t know that he said that he paid. All of these questions need to be answered. I want to hear why he met with a minister if it was a private trip. He has allowed his office to be misused.
GILBERT: Again I put it to you though. You say he’s misused it, a photograph, a handshake, does it warrant a sacking what he’s done here. Is this just a mistake? Should the Prime Minister just slap him over the ear and move on?
DREYFUS: It’s a clear breach of ministerial standards, and those photographs tell us what you need to know. The prohibition in the code of conduct for ministers is that they are not to allow their offices to be used for private profit, for private purposes. Nobody in Australia thinks that Mr Robert was invited there because he was a friend of Mr Marks. He was invited there and put on display at this signing ceremony because he was Assistant Minister of Defence in the Australian Government.
GILBERT: Are you saying he should be sacked?
DREYFUS: Mr Turnbull needs to make up his mind. Mr Turnbull needs to show some leadership. Is he happy for someone who has so clearly committed a breach of the ministerial standards to remain in his ministry? Mr Turnbull had to be dragged kicking and screaming to a realisation that Mr Briggs’ conduct warranted his removal from the ministry. He has to be dragged kicking and screaming -
GILBERT: He acted pretty quickly on that front.
DREYFUS: It took him more than a month after he was advised. Same with Mr Brough.
GILBERT: Due process, he looked at it, examined what went on and responded.
DREYFUS: It’s very, very slow. It’s not good enough for the Prime Minister to drag his feet on these questions of ministerial standards. And on this, how much more needs to be known Kieran? We’ve got the photographic evidence. We’ve got the statements made by the mining company on their website.
GILBERT: You’re critical of the PM. Just on those other matters, he followed due process in the Briggs case didn’t he? Going through the department and examining exactly what happened before he…
DREYFUS: I accept that he followed due process and there was a need in that case to protect the public servant concerned, and that’s commendable that efforts were made to protect the public servant concerned, as should have been done. Here there’s no such complication. Nor was there in the case of Mr Brough, behind whom Mr Turnbull stood in early December, only to find that in the break between Christmas and New Year, off goes Mr Brough, finally Mr Turnbull having realised that his grubby behaviour wasn’t fit conduct for a minister in the Australian Government. And here we’ve got another minister, a third minister. Mr Turnbull can’t drag his feet, he can’t flick it off to the head of his department.
GILBERT: Finally, I’ll just repeat that question, you’re not yet saying that Mr Robert should be sacked?
DREYFUS: It’s the clearest possible breach of ministerial standards.
GILBERT: So you’re saying yes he should be?
DREYFUS: It’s the clearest possible breach of ministerial standards. We need a full statement of what happened and that’s what should happen today.
GILBERT: Thanks Mr Dreyfus for your time.