Senior NSW minister Damien Tudehope has resigned after he declared he unknowingly had shares in Transurban, a company that owns a majority of the state’s toll roads.
The NSW Minister for Finance and Employment Relations made the disclosure on Friday and said the shares were part of his family’s diversified superannuation fund that was established in 2014 and managed by financial advisers.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said he was told of the disclosure on Thursday and expected to receive advice from the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s legal teams for further review on Friday afternoon.
Hours later, Mr Tudehope announced his resignation as Minister for Finance, Minister for Employee Relations and Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council. He will remain an upper house MP, or MLC.
He said in a statement legal advice from the Department of Premier and Cabinet “cleared me, advising I did not knowingly breach the Ministerial Code of Conduct”, but he had chosen to resign as a matter of “integrity”.
“I value my own integrity and the integrity of the Government to be something that is not the subject of repeated political attacks,” he said.
“During the eight years I have been elected as a member of parliament I have always sought to ensure that I have conducted myself, and those responsibilities that have been given to me, as something where I have acted beyond reproach.
“The events of the last 24 hours have provided an unnecessary distraction for the Government at a time when the most important thing for the people of NSW is to be concentrating on the choice before them – an experienced Liberal and Nationals Government with a long term economic plan compared to a NSW Labor Party interested in tired and old politics.”
Mr Perrottet released his own statement minutes later, confirming he had accepted Mr Tudehope’s resignation and praising the former minister as “a person of integrity and honesty”.
The Premier will assume the role of Minister for Finance and Minister for Employee Relations, he said.
As Finance Minister, Mr Tudehope would have engaged in discussions related to the tolling relief for roads owned by the road operator. In NSW, Transurban partly or completely owns and operates nine toll roads including the M2, M4, Lane Cove Tunnel and WestConnex.
“If I had known I held Transurban shares I would have disclosed the holding at the time,” he told journalists on Friday.
“I did not know I built those shares until it was brought to my attention as a result of correspondence I received from a journalist.”
On Friday, The Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Tudehope’s family trust was worth more than $65,000, with the shares more than doubling since they were purchased for $29,099 in 2014.
The Finance Minister confirmed he would now sell the shares and donate the profits to charity.
Mr Tudehope maintained several times he was unaware of the shares until he was alerted by a journalist and declared his shareholding was not a factor in any political decision.
“There are obviously policy issues involving Transurban; if I had known that my family superannuation funds held shares in Transurban, I would have disclosed that and not participated,” he said.
“It would have had no impact on Transurban in respect to toll relief … It would not have impacted their share price and I say this categorically.”
Mr Tudehope confirmed that Mr Perrottet had been alerted of the minister’s lack of disclosure, and will now decide whether this breaches the ministerial code of conduct.
“That’s a matter for the Premier; I have written to the Premier. He will get advice on the failure to disclose,” he said.
“If I had known I had shares, I would have not taken part in discussions about Transurban.
“I don’t think the question of an apology arises.”
Under the code, ministers can only hold shares in a public or private company or business if they can prove it is unlikely “to raise any conflict of interest or any potential conflict of interest”.
Shares held in superannuation funds must be “broadly diversified”. A minister must have “no influence over particular investment decisions of the fund”.
Story Credit: news.com.au