Sunday, 14 February 2016

Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan enthusiasically behind Nationals' federal leadership change?


If the glum face is anything to go by, Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan may have shared the feelings of many on the NSW North Coast when the new Nationals leadership team of Deputy Prime Minister & Leader of the Nationals Barnaby Joyce and Deputy Leader Fiona Nash was announced.

Original image found on Twitter

Liberal MP Stuart Robert's resignation as Australian Minister for Human Services raises more questions than it answers


The following is a rough timeline covering the the not-so-illustrious political career of Stuart Rowland Robert, Liberal MP for Fadden (QLD) since 2007.

On 10 September 2010 Stuart Robert changed his Statement of Registrable Interests to reflect that he and his wife were no longer trustees for the Robert Family Trust and Robert Investments Family Trust, as well as ceasing to be directors and shareholders in Robert International Pty Ltd.

It is understood that new trustees are close family members of Robert.

For most of his parliamentary career to date Stuart Robert has not ventured overseas that often.

His first official overseas trip did not occur until 5 August 2009 as part of a parliamentary delegation to Timor Leste. His second was also as part of a parliamentary delegation – this time to the United Arab Emirates between 13-20 May 2011.

Robert’s third and fourth overseas trips covered six days in June and five days in October 2011. First as a representative of Australia during commemorative events in France and then on a study tour of South Africa. The two and a quarter page study report cost taxpayers $16,161.58.

Between 13 Feb to 17 Feb 2012 Stuart Robert was again overseas representing Australia in Singapore on behalf of Senator Michael Ronaldson. From 17 Oct to 21 Oct 2012 Robert was in Egypt for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein, before travelling on to Uganda for seven days on another study tour. This second three-page study report cost $3,811.92.

In June 2013  then Shadow Minister for Defence, Science, Technology and Personnel  Stuart Robert hosted a small private dinner at Parliament House for a representative of a Chinese mining company, reportedly at the request of another guest, millionaire businessman Paul Marks

Besides Marks, guests at this dinner included Chinese billionaire Li Ruipeng, then Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources Ian Macfarlane and then Liberal National Party president Bruce McIver. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and then Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship & Shadow Minister for Productivity and Population Scott Morrison attended the dinner towards the end.


All the Australian politicians at this dinner reportedly received gifts of designer watches worth est. $250,000 in total.

Marks is frequently described as a close personal friend of Robert.

On 31 January 2014 mining exploration company Nimrod Resources Limited donated $500,000 to the federal Liberal Party of Australia.

In mid-August 2014 Stuart Robert accompanied Paul Marks to China allegedly to lobby the Chinese Government on his behalf in relation to the business interests of Nimrod Resources.

Robert did not bill the taxpayer for his flight to China. However, his return journey was via Singapore for the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial meeting and the Defence Ministers' Dialogue on 21 to 23 August. Therefore taxpayers funded the last leg of his journey home.

Nimrod Resources currently has three directors, Paul Marks (Executive Chairman), James Macaulay (Managing Director) and Robert Kingdon (Non-executive Director). Bruce McIver reportedly holds a 22 per cent shareholding in this company.

In early April 2014 Stuart Robert as Assistant Minister for Defence led a 7-day trade mission to Israel organized by the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, of which Marks' brother Sam Miszkowski is understood to be a Queensland office bearer/member.

There were two other ministerial visits overseas in 2014 - one to Afghanistan and another to New Zealand & the United States.

On 30 June 2014 P. Marks Investment Pty Ltd  donated $431,631 to the federal Liberal Party.

Between April and June 2015 Paul Marks personally donated $340,000 to the federal Liberal Party.

To date the Marks family appear to have donated at least $1.47 million directly to the Liberal Party.

In late April to early May 2015 as Assistant Minister for Defence, Stuart Robert made ministerial visits to the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and the USA as part of a trade delegation.

By 2016 Chinese businessman Li Ruipeng is no longer a high-flying billionaire but is wanted by police in China for illegal fundraising and unpaid debts of est. $30 million and Robert may yet have to appear as a witness in a court case concerning the outcome of a Dubai land deal which went wrong.

On 12 February 2016 Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull released a press statement regarding Robert’s resignation as Minister for Human Services which said in part that: Mr Robert advised Dr Parkinson that at the time he travelled to Beijing in August 2014 he did not believe that he had any interest in or connection to Mr Paul Marks’ company, Nimrod Resources. In the course of assisting the investigation, Mr Robert advised Dr Parkinson that on checking his records he had become aware that shares in Metallum Holdings Pty Ltd, a company in which Mr Marks was also a shareholder, had been allocated to his trustee some time before the visit to Beijing. He told Dr Parkinson that this had been done without his knowledge. He further advised Dr Parkinson that he believed Metallum Holdings Pty Ltd had an interest in Nimrod Resources.

Metallum Holdings has an interesting history:

METALLUM HOLDINGS PTY LTD  ACN 160 273 763
Formerly Resource House Holdings Pty Ltd
Registered: 10 September 2012
Address: Office F1 Level 1, 47-59 Ashmore Road, Bundall QLD 4217
Sole Director: Paul Marks
Company Secretary: Robert Arthur Kingdon of Kingdon Lawyers
Number of Ordinary Shares: 10,000
Shareholders:
MIST CONSULTING PTY. LTD. – a Marks family company, trading as Friends of Israel (QLD), which donated $200,000 to the Liberal Party of Australia on 13 March 2014
ROMELL PTY. LTD.
P. MARKS INVESTMENT PTY LTD
Louise Edwards
Previous Shareholders:
INTERIMCO PTY LIMITED – company believed to be owned or part-owned by former Liberal National Party president Bruce McIver
JJ HOLDINGS (VIC) PTY. LTD.
OZEAN INVESTMENTS PTY. LIMITED
Tom Kotsimbos.

All this leaves two questions hanging after Stuart Robert’s resignation – exactly how often did Robert assist Marks family business interests in the last nine years and, how many other Turnbull Government ministers have helped Paul Marks in a similar fashion?

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Just because it is beautiful.....(3)



Eucalyptus Flower

Quote of the Week


"Four banks, and we all know who they are – the Commonwealth Bank, NAB, Westpac, and ANZ – three big mining companies, in Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, and Fortescue Metals, you've got your two big grocery chains, and you've got your big telco, which is Telstra…..They have "unprecedented concentration of corporate influence" in Australia…...
The entire political debate has become so dominated by the interests that they're pushing, and the agenda that they're pushing. And [we've] ended up with this complete crowding out of a proper political discourse in this country because there is one sectional interest that is so much louder than every other voice out there combined." [Labor Senator Sam Dastyari quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 February 2016]

Political Cartoon of the Week

Friday, 12 February 2016

Setting the record straight on one of Tony Abbott's phantasies in 2016


Malcolm Turnbull’s first official visit to the U.S. since becoming Australian Prime Minister occurred this year. He met with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington DC on 19 January 2016.

The occasion was attended by an obligatory White House press release and photo opportunities:


At the end of January sacked former prime minister Tony Abbott hotfooted it to Washington and then briefed News Corp to the effect that on 30 January he attended an exclusive banquet and had a private meeting with President Obama.

There was no official White House media release and the only photo opportunities with the president were outside the lunch venue and did not feature Abbott:

The casual shot above of lunch guests leaving the venue does show Tony Abbott at the top of the stairs, but the only other image that was offered to backup Tony Abbott's bae phantasy was file video of he and Peta Credlin wandering forlornly in what appears to be a park in the UK:

The real facts are that Tony Abbott attended a 100-seat lunch as a guest of one of the members of what is essentially a powerful old fogey’s group, the Alfalfa Club, which meets one day a year.

That club member was newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch.

This year President Obama attended the lunch. Knowing the pattern of such gatherings it is safe to assume that Tony Abbott would have been lucky to speak with Obama for 10 minutes before the president’s skillful aides separated him from Abbott.

Abbott also attended the club’s annual dinner that night which Obama had politely declined to attend. Obama has only ever attended two of these annual dinners during his presidency.

When Abbott was finally sprung fibbing and it was revealed that there were no private meetings with Obama at that lunch, this was the response from a member of Tony's staff on 8 February 2016:

Mr Abbott was pleased to have the opportunity to speak with President Obama privately at a lunch on Saturday 30 January, 2016

It seem that he will not give up his pork pie without a fight.

NOTE: Photographs were found at The Guardian, The Malay Mail Online, Twitter, UPI, Sky News.

Minister for Human Services & Minister for Veterans' Affairs showing his contempt for the Australian electorate


Liberal MP, Minister for Human Services & Minister for Veterans' Affairs, lobbyist and professional investor, Stuart Robert, elevates the non-answer to an art form in an effort to keep the Labor Opposition, mainstream media and voters in the dark – as evidenced by these examples of his answers to questions without notice in the House of Representatives.

Question Time, House of Representatives Hansard 9 February 2016:

Mr DREYFUS: My question is to the Minister for Human Services. I refer to the minister's trip to China in August 2014 and the statement from the minister's office in The Courier Mail:
Mr Robert was on approved leave and attended in a private capacity.
Minister, is this accurate?

Mr ROBERT (Fadden—Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC) (14:42): I thank the member for his question regarding a visit I undertook overseas in a personal capacity in 2014. Can I say to the House: I am confident I have not acted inappropriately and, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, this matter has been referred to the highest public servant in the land, Dr Martin Parkinson PSM, for review and I, of course, will fully assist the secretary in his review.

Mr DREYFUS (Isaacs—Deputy Manager of Opposition Business) (14:46): My question is to the Minister for Human Services. I refer to the minister's previous answer where he said he travelled to China in August 2014 in a personal capacity. Did the minister's declaration on his outgoing Australian passenger card reflect the statement he has just made to the House that he travelled in a personal capacity?

Mr ROBERT (Fadden—Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC) (14:47): I thank the member for his question and, with great respect, I refer the member to my previous answer.

Mr DREYFUS (Isaacs—Deputy Manager of Opposition Business) (14:51): My question is again to the Minister for Human Services. I refer to the minister's previous answer where he said he had travelled to China in August 2014 in a personal capacity. Did the minister's declaration on his official Chinese visa application form reflect the statement he has just made to the House that he was travelling in a personal capacity?

Mr ROBERT (Fadden—Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC) (14:51): I thank the member for his question and I refer the member to my previous answer.

Mr DREYFUS (Isaacs—Deputy Manager of Opposition Business) (14:55): My question is again to the Minister for Human Services. I refer to the minister's trip to China and his statement to the House: that he was in China in August 2014 in a personal capacity. But today, the Australian Financial Review reports that on the same trip the minister attended a Nimrod Resources signing ceremony. The minister also met with China's Vice Minister of Land and Resources. Did the minister meet with China's Vice Minister of Land and Resources as a private citizen?

Mr ROBERT (Fadden—Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC) (14:56): Let me thank the member for his question and I refer the member to my previous statement.

Question Time, House of Representatives Hansard 10 February 2016:

Mr DREYFUS: My question is to the Minister for Human Services. I refer to the minister's trip to China and his answer yesterday that he would fully assist the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in his review. Has the minister informed the Parkinson inquiry that, as a private citizen, he not only met the Chinese vice minister for land and resources while in China, but was accompanied to that meeting by executives of Nimrod Resources? Will he also confirm this information to the parliament?

Mr ROBERT (Fadden—Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC) (14:29): I thank the member for his question and I refer the member to my previous answer yesterday.

Mr DREYFUS (Isaacs—Deputy Manager of Opposition Business) (14:38): My question is to the Minister for Human Services. I refer to the minister's previous answer. The minister has referred the parliament to his statement yesterday. Given that his statement was silent on what would be provided to the Parkinson inquiry, will he now answer the question: has the minister provided the Parkinson inquiry with evidence that proves that at the time he undertook his trip to China the minister paid for his own flights, accommodation, internal travel and incidentals?

Mr ROBERT (Fadden—Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC) (14:38): I thank the member for his question and I refer the member to my previous response yesterday.

Mr DREYFUS (Isaacs—Deputy Manager of Opposition Business) (14:42): My question is to the Minister for Human Services. I refer to the minister's trip to China and his answer yesterday that he would fully assist with the Parkinson inquiry. Given that it is not clear from his answer yesterday what information he has provided to Dr Parkinson, has the minister provided the Parkinson inquiry with a copy of the letter of appointment he presented to an official of a Chinese state-owned company? Will the minister also provide this letter to the parliament?

Mr ROBERT (Fadden—Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC) (14:43): I thank the member for his question and I refer him to my response yesterday.

Meanwhile, despite the best efforts of the Minister for cartier & Rolex Watches, more home truths are coming to light......

Courier Mail, 10 February 2016:

EMBATTLED Liberal minister Stuart Robert organised a dinner in his Parliament House office with Tony Abbott and a Chinese business mogul at the request of his donor mate, Paul Marks.

Mr Robert hosted the dinner — three months out from the federal election in 2013 — so businessman Li Ruipeng could meet senior Liberals including shadow resources minister Ian Macfarlane.

The Herald Sun has obtained a photograph of the dinner, which shows Mr Marks, Mr Abbott and Mr Li among guests at the dinner in Mr Robert’s office…..

Mr Robert is being investigated after the Herald Sun revealed he secretly joined donor mate Mr Marks in Beijing to attend a signing ceremony between Mr Marks’s firm, Nimrod Resources, and Chinese government-owned Minmetals.

The Herald Sun then revealed Mr Robert also led a delegation, that included Nimrod representatives, to meet a Chinese government minister while he was claiming to be on holiday; and that Mr Li gave MPs who were at the 2013 dinner designer watches worth $250,000.

It has now emerged those MPs returned the watches to Mr Marks, not to Mr Li, because by the time they realised that the watches were not fake, Mr Li had disappeared.

Mr Macfarlane, who went on to become science and industry minister, yesterday told the Herald Sun: “I have a receipt showing I handed the watch back to Paul Marks.”

Also present at the gathering was the then president of the Liberal National Party, Bruce McIver, a party powerbroker recently appointed as a director of Australia Post.

A spokesman for Mr Abbott said last night Treasurer Scott Morrison also attended the dinner briefly.

Mr Abbott’s spokesman said that the then Opposition leader had originally declined to attend due to other commitments, but “agreed with a request from Mr Robert to drop in’’.

“He was not aware of any guests attending the dinner until he arrived. It is accurate that Mr McIver and Mr Macfarlane were present and earlier in the evening, Mr Morrison had joined the group,’’ the spokesman said.

“Mr Abbott was not responsible for the dinner, its purpose or guests.”

As for handing Mr Marks the watches, the spokesman said: “As it was not possible to return them to China, the office provided them to Liguancheng Global Investment Holdings Group’s (Pty Ltd) Australian business contact, Mr Paul Marks, with the request that they be returned to Mr Li Ruipeng.”

The Herald Sun can also reveal former Abbott staffer Simone Holtzapfel, whom Mr Robert praised in his inaugural speech, previously acted as a lobbyist for Nimrod Resources…..

Just three months later, Mr Abbott was prime minister, Mr Robert was assistant minister for defence and Mr Macfarlane was resources minister.

And Mr Li was nowhere to be seen.

He vanished shortly after Chinese President Xi Jinping launched a crackdown on corruption.

Herald Sun, 11 February 2016:


New Matilda, 11 February 2016:

In Estimates hearings this morning, it emerged that the Department of Foreign Affairs understood the Chinese government to be dealing with Robert in a “ministerial capacity.”
It beggars belief that Robert was able to access these high offices simply as a citizen of Australia. He was there because he was an Australian minister.