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Pyne and Bishop cleared by inquiry into post-politics jobs

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UPDATED | Australia’s top bureaucrat has cleared former ministers Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne of any potential misconduct over jobs they have accepted since retiring from politics.

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Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Martin Parkinson has reviewed both appointments and found ministerial rules have not been broken.

Pyne has a new defence-focused role with professional services giant EY, while Bishop has been appointed to the board of a foreign aid contractor.

Parkinson has spoken with both former ministers in the past fortnight and reviewed arrangements with their new employers.

“Based on the conversation I had with Mr Pyne, I consider that he has put in place mechanisms to ensure that, while his engagement with EY will appropriately draw on his 26 year experience as a parliamentarian, he will not impart direct or specific knowledge known to him only by virtue of his ministerial position,” Parkinson wrote in his report to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Pyne’s engagement with EY is in the form of a six-month contract through public affairs consultancy GC Advisory which he co-owns with his former chief of staff, Adam Howard.

He told Parkinson he had made it clear to EY he could not lobby or meet with defence portfolio ministers or department officials.

Similarly, Bishop had assured Parkinson she would comply with the standards.

She had no dealings with Palladium during her five years as foreign minister, she told him, and expects the company’s focus to be on projects in the US and UK.

“Moreover, Ms Bishop has not been a minister for almost 12 months – a period in which certain elements of the aid program have been re-cast,” Parkinson wrote.

Labor and some Senate crossbenchers raised concerns over jobs former defence minister Pyne and ex-foreign minister Bishop picked up after leaving parliament in May.

The ministerial code of conduct says ministers must not lobby or have business meetings with politicians or public servants within 18 months of leaving parliament, on matters they dealt with in their final 18 months in office.

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce would not be drawn on whether the jobs passed the pub test, saying: “Well, it passed the investigatory test.”

“Obviously I think that people rightly have questions that they want answered … about how you work for a defence organisation when you were the defence minister,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Parkinson’s findings have not put One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s mind at ease.

“He’s saying that all rules have been complied with. Maybe we should look at those rules,” she told reporters.

“I have a grave concern about people who have held ministerial positions, dealt with companies that have received a million dollars, if not hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts, and now working for those firms?”

Centre Alliance’s Rex Patrick will still push for a Senate inquiry despite the advice, but needs Labor’s support for it to be set up.

The government anticipates the issue may be raised during its regular meeting with non-government senators later today.

– AAP

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