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Labor considers Pyne consulting job inquiry

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Labor is considering calls for an inquiry into former Defence Industry minister Christopher Pyne’s controversial new job with a consultancy firm.

 

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Pyne has raised eyebrows for taking a defence-focused position with professional services giant EY, less than two months after retiring from federal parliament.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is confident his former colleague understand the standards required of ministers, and is acting accordingly.

“I am advised that is precisely what Christopher Pyne is doing,” Senator Cormann told ABC Radio on Monday.

But senior Labor Senator Penny Wong is not convinced, and is calling on Scott Morrison to enforce the ministerial code of conduct.

“If Mr Pyne is being employed by EY to expand their defence business, it certainly does not suggest that he’s only using knowledge that the general public have,” she told ABC Radio.

“I would suggest it looks like he’s been appointed because of his knowledge, and there are clear provisions in the code against that.”

Wong challenged the finance minister to make public his advice.

Labor is also considering Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick’s call for an inquiry into the appointment.

“Ultimately the buck stops with the prime minister. Mr Morrison has to enforce his standards. The ministerial standards are his standards,” Wong said.

The ministerial standards state that ministers can’t lobby or meet with parliamentarians on any matters with which they had ministerial dealings in their last 18 months in office.

The code also bars former ministers from taking advantage of knowledge they had access to as a minister.

Pyne says he knows his responsibilities under the code.

“No one has been able to point to any instance of a breach of the code,” he said in a statement.

“Asserting something does not make it fact.”

The former MP of 26 years says providing “occasional high-level strategic advice” does not require lobbying.

“I intend to ensure that anyone I provide advice to has rigorous processes and procedures in place to ensure I am not put in a position where the ministerial code of conduct might be breached.”

Michele O’Neil, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, stressed Pyne’s new position comes while the government is hoping to quickly pass its union-busting Ensuring Integrity Bill.

The legislation will make it easier to deregister unions and ban officials over misconduct.

“We don’t see an ensuring integrity bill for big business, we don’t see an ensuring integrity bill for politicians,” O’Neil told ABC Radio National on Monday.

“Let’s look at what Christopher Pyne has done in the last few weeks.

“We have simply a code that has been ignored here.

“So is the government talking about its own integrity? Is it talking about the sort of standards we expect from politicians? No.”

-AAP

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