Updated: Dec 12, 2022
Stuart Robert is a member of the Liberal Party and has served as the Federal MP for the seat of Fadden since 2007. Mr. Robert has held various department portfolios, having served as the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business ('21-'22), Minister for Government Services ('19-'21), Minister for National Disability Insurance scheme ('19-'21), Assistant Minister to the Treasurer ('18-'19), Minister for Human Services ('15-'16) and Assistant Minister for Defence ('13-15'). Mr. Robert has been described as "close friends" with two key shareholders of the lobbying group, Synergy 360: David Milo, it's CEO, and political fundraiser, John Margerison.
The "Synergy 360 Lobbying Scandal"
Emails from 2018, recently obtained by The Guardian, reveal that Mr. Robert told Mr. Milo not to donate to the Hume Forum, a fundraising group for fellow Liberal MP, Angus Taylor.
Mr. Milo initially received an invitation to attend the forum before asking Mr. Robert via email in June 2018 “Stu, Is this something we should consider joining?” Mr. Robert replied just over an hour later that day replying: "Nope. It will be declared and it will hurt you.” Mr. Milo then responded with: “Ack. Many thanks.”
This email revelation follows Bill Shorten, present Minister for Government Services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, ordering an investigation into contracts awarded by the former government after media reports revealed that Mr. Robert had given private advice to Synergy 360 who were seeking access to government decision-makers and government contracts. Mr. Shorten referred to the media reports and announced the investigation in parliament on the 24th of November:
"The leaked emails reveal that Synergy 360 was lobbying corporations in relation to lucrative government contracts, including in the portfolios I am now responsible for; therefore, this morning I have asked the CEO of Services Australia and the CEO of the National Disability Insurance Agency to immediately and thoroughly investigate any of the contracts awarded to these companies and individuals named in these reports to assure me and the Australian people that the process was entirely above board and appropriate. In conclusion, I want to say to Australians listening to this: the Albanese government believes the job of an MP is to work for their constituents, not their former business partners. Further, we believe when there is clear lobbying, as revealed by the emails, companies are required to be on the lobbyist register; this is not an option. But most importantly, using public office as a politician to enrich your private friends and mates, including political donors, is not a shade of grey. Whether you are a backbencher or a frontbencher is not an offence. If and when public office is being used to enrich private mates; it is corruption."
[Mr. Shorten's speech regarding the Synergy 360 Lobbying begins at 01:43]
Mr. Robert outright rejected Mr. Shorten's "accusations" and "innuendo." The Guardian has contacted Mr. Robert with questions regarding the email exchange but had not received a response to their specific questions at time of writing. A spokesperson for Mr. Robert responded to The Guardian stating:
“I refer you to Mr Robert’s statements in parliament where he rejects the imputations in the strongest possible language. Mr Robert looks forward to the outcome of what should be a short review of departmental procurement processes, which were always conducted independent of the minister and overseen by strict probity guidelines.”