Christopher Pyne discussed defence business consulting jobs with multinational contracting giant EY while he was still in cabinet.
Pyne also accepted the consulting job just nine days after leaving politics.
The former defence minister prompted significant controversy in the wake of the federal election, when it was revealed he took a job to help EY grow its defence business.
Australia is in the midst of vastly expanding its defence expenditure, including through its new $50bn future submarines project and the $35bn future frigate project. Pyne’s role was designed to help EY capture a larger share of that defence spend.
EY has now provided a detailed timeline of its interactions with Pyne as part of a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the affair.
EY’s defence industry leader, Mark Stewart, said he first contacted Pyne on 7 March, just five days after the defence minister announced he would retire from politics. The pair set up a meeting for 8 April to “discuss his retirement from politics”. Pyne was still in cabinet at the time.
“At this meeting, they discussed Mr Pyne’s post-retirement plans and his interest in utilising his experience as a politician and Minister to assist a professional services firm grow their private sector defence industry business,” Stewart told the inquiry.
“EY subsequently formed a view that Mr Pyne’s 26 years’ experience as a politician would be beneficial to EY’s strategy in growing our defence industry practice, via engaging him as a consultant.”
Pyne remained defence minister until 11 April, when the election was announced.
Six days later, Stewart made a formal offer to Pyne. The offer was accepted on 20 April, and Pyne suggested a start date of 1 June.
The inquiry, conducted by the finance and public administration references committee, is examining compliance with rules set out in the ministerial standards, which require ministers wait 18 months before they “lobby, advocate or have business meetings with members of the government, parliament, public service or defence force” over issues they dealt with in office.
The inquiry is also examining the former foreign minister Julie Bishop’s acceptance of a job with Palladium, a major aid contractor.
The rules are designed to stop ministers using information, contacts and influence they gained in office for private benefit. But they are largely unenforceable once a politician has left office and punishments are generally only meted out at the discretion of the prime minister.
Stewart said Pyne’s role “does not require him to assist EY or its clients to tender for government contracts”.
“Consistent with our public statements on this matter, EY has not, and will not, seek that Mr Pyne lobby, advocate or have business meetings with members of the government, parliament, public service or defence force on any matters on which he has had official dealings as Minister in his last 18 months in office,” Stewart said.
“EY requires that Mr Pyne will maintain confidentiality over, and not seek to take personal advantage of, information to which he had access as a Minister where that information is not generally available to the public. EY has not sought, nor has Mr Pyne provided to EY, any confidential information to which Mr Pyne had access as a Minister.”
The secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Martin Parkinson, investigated Pyne’s acceptance of the job and found no breach of the ministerial standards. Parkinson said Pyne was clearly aware of his obligations and there was no evidence he had disclosed defence-related information to EY.