Work order investigations into government contracts related to Stuart Robert

Bill Shorten informs parliament that using public office to 'enrich private spouse' is corruption following newspaper reports of Coalition MPs

The Albanese government has ordered an investigation into contracts awarded in a portfolio of government services, with Bill Shorten declaring lawmakers using public office to "enrich private spouses" is corruption.

The new probe follows a report in Nine Newspapers on Thursday that alleged Stuart Robert had provided private advice to lobbying firms seeking lucrative government contracts and access to decision makers, including current opposition leader Peter Dutton. Earlier in the day, a spokesperson said Robert "completely rejects all statements made in the article".

Shorten, the minister for government services, used a question-and-answer period to confirm he had asked the chief executive of Australian Services and the National Disability Insurance Agency "to immediately and thoroughly investigate any of the contracts awarded to the companies and individuals named in this report".

"I want to say to Australians listening to this, the Albanian government believes the job of an MP is to work for your constituents, not your former business partners," Shorten told parliament.

Labor's Frontbencher used parliamentary privileges to declare "using public office as a politician to enrich your personal friends and spouse, including political donors, is not a shade of gray".

"When public office has been used to enrich private friends, that is corruption."

Nine Newspapers on Thursday published copies of leaked emails dating from 2017 and 2018. The news report said the private correspondence showed Robert's efforts to help the company - Synergy 360 - to recruit new clients and facilitate access to key decision makers in Canberra.

The report makes no mention that Robert is a Synergy 360 employee or receiving payment for his assistance. Shorten notes that the report has identified John Margerison – Robert's former business partner – as owning one-third of Synergy 360.

Shorten told parliament that the leaked emails revealed that Synergy 360 "is lobbying companies regarding lucrative government contracts, including in a portfolio for which I am now responsible".

Shorten noted Synergy 360 is not listed on the lobbying commonwealth register, despite reports it has lobbied for "lucrative government contracts" on behalf of corporate clients.

Two of the reported clients – American technology giant Unisys and Indian multinational Infosys – are registered clients of lobbying firm DPG Advisory Solutions.

The lobbying code of ethics defines lobbying as “communication with representatives of the Australian government in an effort to influence federal government decision-making” – including the award of government contracts.

Guardian Australia has contacted Synergy 360 to ask why it was not listed on the lobby list.

An Infosys spokesperson said the company engaged Synergy 360 "to provide technical project personnel for several government projects and to help pursue and write proposals".

"Infosys has engaged registered lobbyists to engage with the government."

Robert told parliament on Thursday he rejected outright the "allegations and insinuations" in the Nine Newspaper report and in Shorten's comments during a time of questions about his time as a backbencher.

“Regarding when I became minister years later, all the ministers were aware of the procurement process. Everyone understands how procurement is carried out by public services," said Robert.

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