A senior minister in the Morrison government could face a formal inquiry into controversial meetings about critically endangered grasslands.
The government has so far managed to fend off an investigation into meetings between Energy Minister Angus Taylor and the environment department.
A Labor motion for an inquiry into the matter was defeated on Thursday after crossbenchers including Rex Patrick from Centre Alliance voted against it.
But after spending the weekend reading media reports and government documents about the land-clearing controversy known as “grassgate”, Senator Patrick has changed his mind.
“I am now prepared to support an inquiry,” he tweeted on Sunday.
In its bid to prevent the inquiry, the government produced a letter that purported to show the minister was acting in the interests of his constituents and not himself.
However, the letter from the NSW Farmers Association was written nearly six months after the meetings were held.
“I baulked at a grassgate inquiry this week after the government showed me a letter, without me realising that its date made it of little relevance to any inquiry consideration,” Senator Patrick said.
“If the government is confident in Minister Taylor’s explanations, they should welcome and support a Senate grassgate inquiry.”
Labor is pursuing the cabinet minister over his interest in a family company linked to an investigation into alleged illegal land clearing.
Its pursuit centres on 2017 meetings with environment department officials and the office of then-environment minister Josh Frydenberg to discuss the grasslands’ listing as endangered.
The meetings were held while investigations were underway into the alleged poisoning of 30 hectares that contained the grassland on a NSW property owned by Jam Land Pty Ltd.
Mr Taylor’s brother, Richard, is one of Jam Land’s directors, while their family investment company, Gufee, is a shareholder.
Richard’s wife Bronwyn Taylor, a minister in the NSW government, has also faced accusations in the state parliament she sought to influence the investigation.
The federal minister insists he was representing farmers in his electorate of Hume and the neighbouring seat of Eden-Monaro.
Mr Taylor has repeatedly stated he made no representations to federal or state officials about the illegal land-clearing investigation.
He also told parliament he didn’t ask for or know an investigator from the federal department’s compliance team attended the meeting.