A review by the former secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Martin Parkinson, in July found there was no breach of the guidelines. Labor then voted with the Greens and key crossbenchers to support the creation of a Senate inquiry into ministerial standards.
While the main committee report was not critical of Dr Parkinson, Senator Patrick said in his additional comments the initial review was “poorly executed, incomplete and reflects extremely poorly” on the former public servant.
In its additional comments, the Greens called for the lobbying ban in the code to be expanded to five years and for all ministerial diaries to have publishing requirements.
Government senators argued in their dissenting report there was a distinction between experience gained by ministers in Cabinet and specific knowledge learnt. There was a failure to accept “the distinction between the experience gained by former ministers by virtue of their ministerial and parliamentary service, and the divulging of specific information that is not publicly available for the purposes of personal advantage,” the government senators wrote.
The non-binding standards code declares that ministers must “not lobby, advocate or have business meetings with members of the government, Parliament, public service or defence force on any matters on which they have had dealings as minister in their last 18 months in office”, nor can they “take personal advantage of information to which they have had access as a minister, where that information is not generally available to the public”. The restrictions are in place for 18 months after departure.
“It’s up to the government to respond to the recommendations,” Senator Patrick said. “This really comes down to whether or not the Prime Minister is willing to uphold a particular standard to which ministers who leave the Parliament must comply with.”