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Stuart Robert's China Trip

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

In August of 2014, Stuart Robert, then-Assistant Minister for Defence, attended an event in Beijing. During this event, a mining deal between the Chinese state-owned corporation, China Minmetals, and the Australian Nimrod Resources was signed, which Mr. Robert witnessed. Mr. Robert also met with a Chinese minister and several senior Chinese officials. The Australian government reported that Mr. Robert was attending the event in a private capacity, and not as Assistant Minister for Defence.

Nimrod Resources' executive chairperson, Paul Marks, was also in attendance of the deal. Mr. Marks has also been described as one of the Liberal Party's "most important individual donors," having donated more than $1 million to the party between 2014 and 2016. Mr. Marks is also a friend of Mr. Robert, a relationship which has been described as "well-known."


Mr. Robert reportedly introduced Mr. Marks to former-Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, with Mr. Marks attending the signing of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement in November of 2014 and taking a photo with Mr. Abbott, and with Mr. Abbott attending Mr. Mark's birthday in 2015.

In February 2016 an estimates hearing learned from the Department of Foreign Affairs that the Chinese government saw themselves to be engaging with Mr. Robert in a "ministerial capacity," with the Minmetals media release listing Mr. Robert as the “Assistant Minister of Australian Department of Defence,” and the Chinese government webpage explicitly stating that Mr. Robert spoke with a Chinese minister about Australian mining investments. as Part of an investigation by department secretary, Martin Parkinson, it was also revealed that Mr. Robert owned shares in two of Mr. Mark's companies, both Nimrod Resources and Metallum Holdings, via his business trust.


The scenario led to Mr. Robert resigning from Malcolm Turnbull's cabinet, with Mr. Turnbull stating:

"Mr. Robert recognised that this connection would create the impression that at the time he went to Beijing he had something personally to gain from the Nimrod Resources project...As a result, Mr. Robert has asked me not to consider him in the pending reshuffle of the ministry. I thank him for his service as a minister and for his candid cooperation with Dr. Parkinson in his inquiry.”

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