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Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Page: 40

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (Minister for Defence) (6:21 PM) —On indulgence, Mr Speaker: on 14 September this year I received an email from my brother-in-law congratulating me on my appointment as Minister for Defence. The email drew to my attention the possibility that there may be potential for a conflict of interest arising as a result of his employment. He is currently a Unisys employee working in Defence as a defence communications facility manager.

Following receipt of this email, I sought advice from the Secretary of the Department of Defence on the implications and on any steps that might be necessary to help ensure that no conflict-of-interest issues arise. The secretary has advised that my brother-in-law manages a small team of Unisys contractors on behalf of Unisys under a contract that runs from October 2009 to October 2014. While the overall Unisys contract is worth some $45 million per annum, I am advised that the relevant component is nearly $8 million per annum. The Secretary of the Department of Defence has also advised that my brother-in-law’s position is not one that is able to affect the way Defence manages the contract and, further, that Defence will ensure that he is not involved in any future contract negotiations.

In the circumstances, the secretary has advised that it is unlikely that my brother-in-law’s role creates any direct conflict in respect of my responsibilities. Nevertheless, erring on the side of caution and to help ensure that a perception of conflict of interest does not arise in the future, I have written to the Prime Minister detailing arrangements put in place at the advice of the Secretary of the Department of Defence. These include that Defence and the Defence Materiel Organisation will ensure that my office and I are not involved in any significant procurement or contract related decisions involving Unisys—noting that procurements of low value or sensitivity would not be briefed to ministers in any event—and, in particular, that Defence and the Defence Materiel Organisation will ensure that I am not sent or copied into any submission relating to any such procurement or contract, including submissions for noting.

I propose to table a copy of this letter for the information of the House. I will also include reference to this matter in my statement of private interests that I am required to lodge with the Prime Minister and in my statement of registrable interests to the House. I have provided this detail to the shadow minister who represents the shadow minister for defence in this place. I table the letter that I have referred to.