Ex-trade minister Andrew Robb gets job with Chinese firm that leased Darwin Port

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Former trade minister Andrew Robb at his appointment ceremony. Photo: ABC NewsFormer trade minister Andrew Robb has accepted a job with the Chinese company that has a 99-year lease of the Darwin Port.
Nanjing Night Net

Mr Robb was appointed to the role – described as a “high-level economic consultant” – in a ceremony in September.

However, his job only came to light on Sunday when the ABC commissioned a translation of a September 2 statement by the Landbridge Group.

According to the ABC, the translated statement reads: “The process of internationalisation of the Landbridge Group and the results achieved had greatly impressed him [Mr Robb].”

Chairman Ye Cheng is quoted as saying that, for Landbridge to achieve its goals, “it will be necessary to draw on experts such as Mr Andrew Robb who have global vision and global influence.”

A ceremony celebrating Mr Robb’s appointment was described as “auspicious” and included a floor-to-ceiling banner reading: “Appointment ceremony of Senior Economic Adviser Mr Andrew Robb of Landbridge Group”.

Landbridge Group paid $506m for the 99-year Darwin Port lease, which began in November 2015. The deal was seen as an attempt to expand trade between Australia and China.

At the time, Mr Robb welcomed the deal, lauding it as a “wonderful outcome for the Northern Territory, and for Australia as a whole.”

In his time as trade minister, Mr Robb negotiated four trade agreements, including the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and China.

When the 65-year-old announced his resignation in February, he said he wanted to have one more career before he turned 68.

His career move has already been criticised.

Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told The Australian Mr Robb needed to explain his “cosy” appointment.

“It is appropriate that we get an explanation about when he was approached by the company to take on this role,” Mr Jennings said.

“He has to be very careful to make sure he can explain if there is a conflict of interest or why there isn’t a conflict of interest in this appointment, based on his obvious involvement in the free trade agreement arrangements when he was the minister for trade.”

On Sunday night, shortly after the announcement was made, Mr Robb’s Wikipedia page was changed anonymously to read that his appointment continued “a proud tradition in Australian conservative politics of plunging their snouts firmly in the trough for the purposes of personal enrichment at the expense of the Australian voter”.

The altered text remained online for several hours.

Under the Statement of Ministerial Standards, ministers are not allowed to lobby the Australian government for 18 months from the date they resign their ministry.

Fairfax Media

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