Federal Minister Stuart Robert is under fire for a secret visit to Beijing where he joined his millionaire friend Paul Marks to secure a business deal between Mr Marks’ Nimrod Resources and the Chinese Government-owned Minmetals. Over the past two years, Mr Marks has donated $2 million to the Liberal Party.
At the time of his visit, Mr Robert held the positon of Assistant Defence Minister. A statement and photos on the Minmetal website claims that Mr Robert spoke in China “on behalf of the Australian Department of Defence”. While he was there, he also presented a letter and a medal on behalf of the then Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Mr Turnbull said yesterday: “The Minister travelled to China in August 2014 while on personal leave. His personal leave was approved on behalf of the prime minister at the time, in accordance with the usual procedures.”
Mr Robert has sent a letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that said he was ‘confident’ that no rules of integrity had been breached during his visit. Mr Turnbull has ordered a “thorough” investigation of Mr Robert’s trip to China.
It was also revealed that Mr Robert accepted two designer watches from a Chinese firm by the name of Liguancheng Group. After discovering the watches were genuine, he sought advice from the Clerk on entitlements. Even after confirmation from the Clerk that he could keep the watches, he decided to return them.