Asia Australian Cabinet minister resigns over unofficial China trip

Australian Cabinet minister resigns over unofficial China trip

Human Services Minister Stuart Robert.
Human Services Minister Stuart Robert.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accepted the resignation on Friday of a Cabinet minister who admitted he had attended a contract signing between China’s Minmetals Corp and an Australian company with which he had financial links.

The move ends a tumultuous week for Turnbull’s conservative government after two other ministers quit a day earlier in unrelated circumstances, paving the way for a Cabinet reshuffle months before a general election is due.

Turnbull said a government investigation found that Human Services Minister Stuart Robert had attended a meeting between unlisted Australian miner Nimrod Resources Ltd and Minmetals [CHMIN.UL] during an unofficial trip to Beijing in 2014.

Turnbull said in a statement Stuart had offered his resignation after becoming aware that he held shares in another company, Metallum Holdings Pty Ltd, which had an unspecified interest in Nimrod Resources.

“Mr Robert recognized that this connection would create the impression that at the time he went to Beijing he had something personally to gain from the Nimrod Resources project,” he said.

Turnbull’s government has been dogged by scandals since he became leader after a party-room coup in September, distracting him from efforts to unite his after the ouster of former leader Tony Abbott. Two other ministers lost their jobs in unrelated scandals in December.

A senior Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade official told a Senate hearing on Thursday the department was not aware of Robert’s trip and that Chinese officials at the meeting believed he was there in an official capacity.