Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Liberal Member for Fadden - drowning not waving

Once the pecuniary interest dam burst the water just keep rising……..

Almost three years after the event, voters now learn that disgraced former Minister for Human Services, Liberal MP Stuart Robert, as the then Shadow Minister for Defence, Science, Technology and Personnel had decided to have a look at one of his investments - an Evolution Mining gold mine in North Queensland.

Like many MPs before him, he decided that the taxpayer should foot his expenses. 

Robert managed this by tagging himself onto an official state visit to the mine and then billing for his overnight stay in Brisbane and travel:

Travel Allowance
9 Apr 13 Brisbane Shadow Minister - Official Business 1 night $376.00
10 Apr 13 - Brisbane to Townsville $368.82
10 Apr 13 - Townsville to Brisbane $722.67
10 Apr 13 - Brisbane $44.80
10 Apr 13 - Brisbane $40.00
10 Apr 13 - Brisbane $119.75

Then he was finally caught out:

A former senior staffer in Mr Newman’s office said yesterday that the revelations in The Australian of travel claims by Mr Robert for the trip to north Queensland on April 10, 2013, were “very surprising and concerning”. “I recall that it was reinforced to us at the time that he was travelling in a private capacity, that he was attending unofficially,’’ the staffer said.

On 17 February 2016, a day after the letter to the Dept. of Finance, the Gold Coast Bulletin reported that the beleaguered Stuart Robert had regained formal control of his own company, Robert International, on Monday 15 February.

Robert had re-organised his business interests in 2010 according to The Australian:

His register of interests shows his investments are held in a company called Robert Investment House. This in turn is owned by Robert International, which lists his parents — 78-year-old Alan and 75-year-old Dorothy — as directors and shareholders.

The investment company was previously held by Mr Robert, but was transferred to his parents three weeks after the 2010 election.

At this time Robert and his wife also ceased to be trustees of the Robert Family Trust and the Robert Investments Family Trust according to his statement of registrable interests in 2010, so it is probably safe to assume that he is looking to replace his parents as trustees of these entities as well.

In the same Gold Coast Bulletin article of 17 February it was reported:

He would not reveal whether he knew at the time he held shares in the mining company.
“In Evolution? I wouldn’t have even thought of it,” he said.
“If I had, it would have been declared.”

Now Robert’s attempt to deflect the question may not have been the wisest choice.

On 13 May 2011 in his Statement of Registrable Interests Robert declared the acquisition of Conquest Mining shares and, as there was a merger of Catalpa Resources with Conquest Mining in November 2011 forming Evolution Mining it beggars belief that Robert would not have been aware that he now owned Evolution shares.

By 6 February 2012 he had declared shares under the merged company's new name.

Again, it is hardly likely that someone who appears to consider themselves a professional investor would forget that he owned shares in a mining company in their own home state.

In October 2012 Stuart Robert would have opened Evolution Mining’s annual report and on the first page of the Executive Chairman’s Report would have read:

In the 2012 Financial Year we produced 280,401 ounces of gold (attributable), in-line with our guidance, at an average cash operating cost of A$771 per ounce, significantly below our guidance. This is an extremely satisfying outcome in only eight months as a new company.

Something I suspect he remembered six months later when he organised that trip to Townsville.

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