Former Liberal frontbenchers Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne could be dragged before the Senate to explain their highly paid private sector jobs.
Despite the two being cleared of any breach of the rules by an inquiry led by the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Senate voted on Monday to establish a parliamentary probe into jobs for ex-MPs.
Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick has flagged he will even attempt to call the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the report’s author Dr Martin Parkinson to an inquiry into compliance with ministerial standards.
The decision of former defence minister Mr Pyne to take a job with consultants EY advising defence business, and the former foreign affairs minister’s job with Palladium has triggered uproar in Parliament over claims ministerial standards have been breached.
Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally said the claim the ministers were not in breach of the rules was “absurd”.
“How on earth can Australians believe that Mr Pyne will not use or divulge confidential information he obtained as minister for defence and as a member of cabinet while working for one of the largest defence industry consultants in the country?” Senator Keneally said.
Actually I was quoting Liberal MP Tony Pasin, who said it didn’t pass the public test. https://t.co/V4acgJiu5v
— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) July 22, 2019
But the Prime Minister hit back in Question Time, accusing Labor of getting out “the chum bucket” to create a scandal.
A chum bucket is a bucket of bloody fish and animal parts used to attract fish, a political insult pioneered in Parliament by Mr Pyne.
An inquiry into the matter by Dr Parkinson has found “no grounds” to conclude a breach of the code of conduct had occurred on the basis of the available evidence.
It urged the ministers to “take care” not to breach the rules in their new roles.
“Notwithstanding this, the former ministers should take care to not divulge the deliberations of the cabinet or the confidential briefing provided to them by the public service in order to gain benefit for themselves or another party post their ministerial position,” Dr Parkinson said.
But the report could open the door to future reforms, noting Parliament has no powers to police former MPs after they leave the Parliament, despite guidelines they should not use confidential information gained as ministers.
Manager of opposition business Tony Burke argued the new probe was required because Ms Bishop had claimed she had no contact with Palladium as foreign affairs minister.
“Can the Prime Minister tell the House how the claim that Julie Bishop had nothing to do with Palladium in the five years she was minister is consistent with her appearance in a video filmed in her office titled ‘Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop commends Palladium business part of platform’ which was posted to the Palladium ‘make it possible’ site?” Mr Burke asked.