Monday, 29 July 2019
Finance and Public Administration References Committee; Reference
(1) That the Senate notes that—
(a) the Statement of Ministerial Standards clearly provides that Ministers must act with honesty and integrity in all their activities, in particular, Ministers must:
(i) make arrangements to avoid conflicts arising from their private interests, also having regard to interests held by family members (paragraphs 2 and 2.17), and
(ii) not use public office for private purposes (paragraph 2.2),
(b) on 19 June 2019, the Guardian reported that, while a company part-owned by the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Mr Angus Taylor MP, and his brother was under investigation by the Department of the Environment and Energy for alleged unlawful clearing of a critically-endangered grassland species, the Minister met with departmental staff; the Guardian further reported, on 27 June 2019, that an investigator from the office responsible for investigating the clearing allegations was present at a meeting;
(c) on 20 June 2019, the Guardian reported that former Minister for the Environment and Energy, Mr Josh Frydenberg MP, was approached by Mr Taylor in relation to the listing of the grassland species; according to the report, Mr Frydenberg subsequently sought advice about his powers to amend the critically-endangered listing; and
(d) these meetings raise serious questions about whether such conduct complies with the Ministerial Standards — the statement provided by Senator Cormann to the Senate on 23 July 2019, failed to satisfactorily address these questions.
(2) That the following matter be referred to the Finance and Public Administration References Committee for inquiry and report by 10 September 2019:
(a) compliance by the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Mr Taylor, and the Treasurer, Mr Frydenberg, with the Prime Minister's Statement of Ministerial Standards;
(b) enforcement of the Ministerial Standards including, but not limited to:
(i) actions taken in response to allegations of improper conduct or other non-compliance with the Ministerial Standards,
(ii) investigation of allegations of improper conduct or other non-compliance with the Ministerial Standards by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet,
(iii) investigation of allegations of misconduct or other non-compliance with the Ministerial Standards by an independent authority,
(iv) penalties for non-compliance with the Ministerial Standards, and
(v) any policies developed to guide implementation of the Ministerial Standards;
(c) appointment of a Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner tasked with enforcing compliance with the Ministerial Standards; and
(d) any related matters.
(3) That the Senate requests that the Finance and Public Administration References Committee, as far as practicable, conduct this inquiry in conjunction with the committee's inquiry into compliance by former Ministers of State with Ministerial Standards, referred on 22 July 2019.