Stuart Robert’s lobbying contract links probed

Stuart Robert reportedly wanted to divide the department overseeing robodebt into different agencies

Stuart Robert reportedly wanted to divide the department overseeing robodebt into different agencies Photo: AAP

An investigation has been launched into allegations Liberal MP Stuart Robert secretly assisted a Canberra lobbying and consulting firm that helps companies secure lucrative government contracts.

A cache of leaked emails reveals how Mr Robert helped Synergy 360 in 2017 and 2018 sign up corporate clients to help them navigate the public service and political system and meet key decision-makers, Nine newspapers allege.

That included providing access to senior coalition ministers such as Peter Dutton.

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald said they were not suggesting Mr Robert was an employee of Synergy 360 or was paid for his advice and assistance.

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten told parliament he had asked several departments, including Services Australia and the National Disability Insurance Agency, to review contracts that had been awarded to the group.

He said he wanted to ensure the contract process was “above board”.

“The Albanese government believes the job of an MP is to work for your constituents, not your former business partners,” he told parliament on Thursday.

“Using public office as a politician to enrich your private friends and mates including political donors is not a shade of grey.

“Whether you’re a backbencher or a frontbencher, if and when public office had been used to enrich private mates, it’s corruption.”

Mr Robert told parliament he rejected accusations in the newspaper report, labelling it as innuendo.

“With respect to when I was a minister, years later, all ministers know the process for procurement,” he said.

Synergy 360 is paid a retainer by companies to lobby officials and is paid a commission if a contract is successfully secured.

Nine newspapers said the leaked emails showed Mr Robert introduced Synergy 360 to overseas officials and businessmen he met in his official capacity as an MP.

The code of conduct under then-prime minister Scott Morrison said ministers should ensure dealings with lobbyists “do not give rise to a conflict between public duty and private interest”.

There is no similar code for backbenchers. Mr Robert was a backbencher in 2017 and 2018.

Nine newspapers reported Mr Robert denied helping or advising Synergy 360 in its work with any companies that were trying to secure government contracts.


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