“Massive Conflict Of Interest”: Government Franking Inquiry Under Fire
PM rebuffs call for Tim Wilson to stand down as economics committee chair.
Scott Morrison has swatted away calls to sack Tim Wilson as chairman of a parliamentary economics committee after the MP was accused of "highly unethical" behaviour.
Mr Wilson is heading up a highly unusual inquiry into an opposition policy: Labor's plans to scrap cash payments for excess franking credits to shareholders.
But the sting in the tail is the revelation that Mr Wilson holds shares in a fund management firm leading the charge against Labor's changes, is related to its chairman, Geoff Wilson, and arranged meetings to maximise the testimony gathered for the committee from the fund’s shareholders.
The Liberal MP has led a series of town-hall style meetings across Australia seeking feedback on the Labor policy, and after discussions with Geoff Wilson, arranged for them to be scheduled to align with meetings of shareholders of funds managed by Wilson Asset Management.
Labor MPs lined up to call for Mr Wilson’s removal from the committee.
Shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus told Radio National on Wednesday that Wilson was “hopelessly compromised”.
“He’s put on a committee hearing at a date and at a place that coincided with the company’s AGM, presumably so that many people who were at the AGM could flock along.”
Labor's Matt Thistlethwaite said Mr Wilson must resign.
"He has a massive conflict of interest as he's a shareholder in the company that is leading the charge in undermining this policy," Mr Thistlethwaite told reporters in Sydney.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen argued the prime minister must intervene if Mr Wilson refused.
"Tim Wilson has no choice but to resign and if he won't resign the prime minister should sack him," he said.
"This is a clear and fundamental breach of convention, of understanding and, frankly, of standing orders."
Mr Morrison was quick to dismiss their comments.
"The Labor Party aren't content with arrogantly dismissing thousands upon thousands, hundreds of thousands, of retirees around the country who they basically want to steal money from with higher taxes," he told reporters.
"Now they're going to throw mud at the person who's giving those retirees a voice."
The round of public hearings is believed to be costing taxpayers around $160,000, and unusually, do not have formal witnesses scheduled for the hearings, with members of the public instead given three minutes each to speak.
"I think it's great that retirees all around the country have got a voice and they can bring forward their concerns in this forum," Mr Morrison said.
"That's what the parliament is supposed to be about, giving Australians a voice. Bill Shorten wants to shut them down, arrogantly dismiss them, and take their money."
The MP for the Melbourne suburban electorate of Goldstein didn’t declare his holdings in two funds managed by Wilson Asset Management at committee hearings, though they were listed on his parliamentary pecuniary interest register.
He also leant his authorisation to the stoptheretirementtax.com website (which is currently offline) which encouraged people to sign a petition and make a submission to the inquiry which he was running.
The MP refused to rule out that Geoff Wilson contributed funding to the website.