Human Services Minister Stuart Robert has stepped down from the Turnbull ministry after a scandal involving a trip to China at the behest of a Liberal Party donor.
The news followed an investigation commissioned by Malcolm Turnbull to investigate allegations Mr Robert breached ministerial standards during the 2014 trip.
Mr Turnbull received a review of Mr Robert’s controversial private trip with Liberal party donor Paul Marks, during which he met with a Chinese vice-minister.
Initial reports said that Mr Robert was tipped to be sacked, but the Prime Minister confirmed on Friday afternoon that he chose to step down on his own accord.
Mr Turnbull confirmed Mr Robert asked him “not to consider him in the pending reshuffle of the ministry”.
“I thank him for his service as a minister and for his candid co-operation,” he said.
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said Mr Robert has “declared himself guilty as charged” and needed to go.
“This is game over,” he told the Nine Network.
With Mr Robert now standing aside could free up yet another spot in Mr Turnbull’s ministry with Nationals leader Warren Truss and Trade Minister Andrew Robb also announcing their resignations.
Mr Robert ‘on personal leave’
Mr Robert disclosed to the government he was travelling to China when he was on leave for personal reasons in late August, 2014.
He insisted he made the trip in a personal capacity and was said he was confident he did not act inappropriately.
Defence Department secretary Denis Richardson told a Senate hearing on Wednesday his department was aware at the time the minister was in Beijing.
“Following his return to Australia, minister Robert asked his office to advise the department who he had met in China,” Mr Richardson said.
The department organised a trip to Singapore immediately after the Beijing visit, where Mr Robert was to represent the defence minister at a meeting.
On his arrival in Singapore, Mr Robert was met by the Australian defence attache, as well as a Singapore government official.
Mr Richardson was unable to say exactly when it was that his department became aware of Mr Robert’s plans to travel to China.
Asked if the minister indicated whether the visit to China was a private trip, Mr Richardson said: “I’m not aware that we were advised that he was travelling to China privately.”
– with reporting by Emma Manser, Patrick Elligett and Kaitlin Thals.