Treasurer's admission implicates him in serious breach of Ministerial Standards

24 September 2019

The grasslands scandal grows as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the ABC yesterday he knew about Angus Taylor’s interest in a company being investigated by the Department of Environment and Energy for allegedly poisoning critically endangered grasslands, before he set up a meeting between Mr Taylor and the department. 
The meeting between Mr Taylor and the Department of the Environment organised by Mr Frydenberg in March 2017, should never have happened.
Mr Frydenberg’s admission that he knew about Mr Taylor’s interest in Jam Land Pty Ltd and the alleged illegal poisoning investigation, implicates the now-Treasurer in a serious breach of ministerial standards which provide that public office must never be used to advance private interests.
The breach is compounded by the questions Mr Frydenberg’s office asked his then department after the meeting: whether the grasslands could be de-listed without scientific advice and whether reasons for de-listing need to be made public.
Mr Taylor stood to benefit from these proposals.
Mr Taylor has already admitted he was looking after his private interests on this matter, on ABC radio in July.
Mr Taylor, as an Assistant Minister, sought the meeting with Mr Frydenberg’s department just one day after compliance officers met with officers of Jam Land Pty Ltd over the alleged poisoning of critically endangered grasslands on land owned by Mr Taylor’s company.
There was only one compliance investigation underway for alleged illegal poisoning of a critically endangered species and that was into Mr Taylor’s company. This investigation is still ongoing by the department Mr Taylor now administers. 
A compliance officer from the same team investigating Mr Taylor’s company was present at the meeting organised by Mr Frydenberg’s office. No notes were kept of this meeting despite the Minister’s office, senior departmental officials, the compliance officer and Mr Taylor being present, contrary to APS standards.
No good reason has been given for Mr Taylor telling his ministerial colleague about his interest in Jam Land Pty Ltd but not telling the Parliament or the Department of the Environment. 
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is yet to disclose whether he knew about Mr Taylor’s interest in Jam Land Pty Ltd before he appointed him to administer the department investigating the company.
The Prime Minister’s Ministerial Standards mean nothing if these serious breaches are considered acceptable.
The longer this grubby affair runs, the more questions it raises.