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Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Page: 2412

Ministerial Staff: Code of Conduct


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:38): My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion. I refer to the conflict of interest in the minister's office that caused the resignation of his adviser Mr William Johnstone. When did the minister first learn of Mr Johnstone's interests as director and majority shareholder of the Indigenous Development Corporation and as founder and leading executive of Indigenous Corporate Partners?


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:38): I thank the senator for the question. I can assure you that, like all members of this government, I take the Statement of Standards for Ministerial Staff very seriously. This government recognises the importance of appropriate governance arrangements for staff. Mr Johnstone came on board to assist in the set-up of the Remote School Attendance Strategy in late 2013. There was no intentional impropriety by a member of my staff. However, Mr Johnstone has resigned. He is committed and passionate about advancing the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians and I am sure that he will continue to make an invaluable contribution to this area.


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:39): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I again ask the question the minister refused to answer: when did he first learn of Mr Johnstone's interest? I also ask: when did the minister advise the Special Minister of State, the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister's office of this conflict of interest? Was it before or after the Prime Minister approved the appointment?


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:40): Mr Johnstone advised me—that is, in relation to your first question, Senator—that the Indigenous Development Corporation is a company comprising himself and one other which conducted occasional consultancy work. Mr Johnstone has advised that he was not doing any work for the company whilst in my office.

Senator Moore: Mr President, I rise on a point of order going to relevance. The specific question is about the timing of this information exchange. The minister so far has not talked to any position of timing. Mr President, I ask you to draw the minister's attention to the specific question, which is about when this information was exchanged.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order at this stage. I am listening carefully to the minister's answer. The minister still has 38 seconds remaining to address the question.

Senator SCULLION: As to the points of the question that relate to the specific times, I will take those on notice.





Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:42): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I refer to Mr Johnstone's resignation just days after this matter was raised publicly. Can the minister explain why it takes a story in the media for this government to uphold ministerial standards?


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:42): All ministerial staff are required to comply with the Statement of Standards for Ministerial Staff.