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Ministers forced to sell shares under new code of conduct

3 minute read

The new code also bans the use of blind trusts by government ministers.

Under a new code of conduct introduced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, federal government ministers will be forced to divest any direct shareholdings they currently have.

The code also prevents ministers from using blind trust arrangements and only allows shares to be held in superannuation and other broadly diversified managed funds.

According to the code, ministers will be held personally responsible for their private interests and will not be allowed to delegate that responsibility to anyone else.

“Ministers hold high public office and are entrusted with considerable privilege and power,” Mr Albanese said in a foreword to the new code.

“The people of Australia are entitled to expect that, in the discharge of our duties, we will act in a manner that is consistent with the highest ethical standards.”

The PM said that the code was underpinned by the key principles that ministers must follow with due regard for integrity, fairness, accountability, responsibility and the public interest.

The code of conduct states that ministers are required to divest themselves of all investments and other interests in any public or private company or business.

Investments in public superannuation funds or publicly listed managed funds or trust arrangements are only allowed when the investments are broadly diversified and where the minister has no influence over investment decisions.

The fund or trust must also not invest “to any significant extent” in a business sector that could give rise to a conflict of interest with the public duty of the minister.

“If a minister becomes aware that a fund or trust has invested in a company that might give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest, the minister should inform the Prime Minister immediately and liquidate the investment in the fund or trust if required to do so,” the code reads.

“If a minister is required by this code to dispose of an interest of any kind, the transfer of the interest to a family member or to a nominee, or private trust is not an acceptable form of divestment.”

In an interview with Sunrise on Friday, Mr Albanese said that the use of blind trusts, including by former Attorney-General Christian Porter, had exposed weaknesses in the system.

“You can do the great job of being a minister in the Australian Government, that should be your focus. Not worrying about your personal finances into the future. And there inevitably will be conflicts raised, issues raised,” he said.

“I want politics to be cleaned up. That's why my Government will establish an anti-corruption commission. And that's why we will have strict adherence to the code of conduct.”