Pyne, Bishop to face questions about post-politics jobs at Senate inquiry

Australia
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Former Liberal ministers Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne are preparing to face a federal parliamentary inquiry into their compliance with ministerial rules.

The pair will be grilled about their controversial post-politics jobs before a Senate committee in Canberra on Thursday, but will not appear in person, choosing to give evidence over the phone. 

Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop

Former ministers Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop say their post-parliament jobs don’t breach ministerial standards.

AAP

The pair, who retired from Federal Parliament in the lead up to the May election, have already been cleared of any breach of the ministerial code of conduct by a departmental review. 

But some Senators were not satisfied. 

Mr Pyne, the former defence minister, has taken a defence-focused role with EY, while former foreign affairs minister Ms Bishop has taken up a role with international aid contractor Palladium.

Senior executives from their new employers EY and Palladium are also slated to appear, along with a representative from Transparency International Australia.

Ms Bishop and Mr Pyne have both denied breaching the code of conduct, which bans ministers for 18 months from lobbying, advocating or meeting with MPs on matters they dealt with during their time in office.

In a submission to the committee, Ms Bishop said she had given an undertaking that she would not use the information she had access to as a minister, that was not available to the general public. 

Even still, Ms Bishop has urged the government to overhaul the standards to shift responsibility for compliance to serving ministers. 

“The onus could and arguably should be placed upon current serving officials to not hold meetings with former ministers for the period of 18 months after those ministers cease to hold office.” 

She said this would make the rules more “workable and enforceable”.

‘Revolving door’ challenge

The inquiry has been urged to consider the broader issue of the “revolving door” between politics and lobbying roles. 

The Grattan Institute has argued the current restrictions on former MPs’ conduct in the 18 months after they leave parliament are unenforceable because it is up to the prime minister to determine a breach.

In a submission to the committee, the independent think tank called for an independent investigation process to be established. 

“Such arms-length administration of the rules is necessary to build public confidence that codes of conduct are respected and adhered to.” 

The Grattan Institute also suggests penalties for a breach include being barred from Parliament House, political party functions and fines. 

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