the minister, his blind faith and the entrepreneur NDIS

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This article is the first part of a series. For the complete series, go here.

A. Woh The investigation raised serious questions about Labor Minister Stuart Robert’s use of a blind trust to protect his financial relationships.

The questions primarily relate to Robert’s time as Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) between 2019-2021 and his relationship with close business partner and friend John Margerison, who is a leading NDIS service provider. .

Robert is the only Morrison government minister to have put a wall of secrecy around his assets via a blind trust.

Wohthe survey shows:

  • Robert and Margerison were co-directors of a company that made investments with and for Robert until Robert was elevated to Morrison’s ministry.
  • The Robert-Margerison company was registered at the same address as Margerison’s NDIS related companies. The address is that of accountant Sean Beasley, based in Robina on the Gold Coast
  • Robert did not provide details on the blind trust or who manages it. He refused to answer Wohquestions, including whether or not the trust is managed by Margerison.

According to the Prime Minister’s Statement of Ministerial Standards, cabinet ministers are subject to higher standards of accountability than other parliamentarians and are ultimately accountable to the prime minister.

This is particularly difficult for Scott Morrison in the case of Robert, who is a close friend. The two shared accommodation in Canberra. Robert acted as Morrison’s numbers man for the 2018 Liberal Party hall ballot that made Morrison prime minister. Both are devoted to Pentecostal Christians.

Morrison defended Robert all the way over allegations in 2016 that Robert violated ministerial standards when he accompanied major Liberal Party donor Paul Marks on a business trip to China. A subsequent investigation ordered by then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull revealed that Robert held shares in the same mining company as Marks, leading to Robert resignation from the ministry. Robert said he didn’t know he had the shares. The public certainly didn’t know.

Who is John Margerison?

Margerison, 46, is originally from the UK. Company profiles describe him as an entrepreneur and strategy expert, with experience in capital markets, finance, commerce, health, retail, banking, fund management, property, and IT.

He is also reportedly a close friend of Robert and has set up a so-called “works council” for him, which brings together businessmen and politicians. Margerison’s name appears in the Paradise Cards, a series of documents leaked in 2017 detailing investment in tax havens for the global wealthy. (It is not illegal to use tax havens to minimize taxes.)

Woh he turned to Margerison for an answer to this series but refused to answer.

What really matters is the kind of business Margerison and Robert did together.

The business relationship between the two appears to have taken off in March 2018. At the time, Robert was in his third year of exile in the Liberal Party backbench with little prospect of returning to government.

As a humble member of Fadden, Robert had more time and freedom to be the hands-on manager of his family’s vast stock and real estate. How extensive? Robert’s parliamentary register of interests records that his family and the self-managed super fund held shares in 18 companies listed on the ASX. Almost half of these were involved in minerals, mainly gold. Through interconnected trust structures, Robert also held investments in technology, data and financial services companies, as well as half a dozen commercial properties in NSW and Queensland.

Documentation shows that Robert has returned regularly to update his parliamentary register with changes to his holdings and corporate structures. How much was it worth it? It’s impossible to know: MPs don’t need to declare how many shares they have in a company.

When Margerison arrived, the Fadden member was about to expand into a new series of investments, including a stake in a Gold Coast company that sold body-building dietary supplements.

The Margerison-Robert partnership

ASIC documents show that Margerison created a firm called JM National Property Pty Ltd, and was joined by Stuart Robert in March 2018. Robert remained a director for nearly six months until Morrison appointed him assistant treasurer.

And what six months it has been.

Robert placed JM National Property at the heart of his financial affairs, as a trust company for another trust that held property and stock for Robert and his family.

A month later, Margerison founded the Australian Ibero-American Business Council, a networking body that offered investors and business people a forum to socialize with politicians, and it was Robert’s idea.

In August 2018 JM National Property acquired a 50% stake in Cryo Australia, a Brisbane-based franchise group specializing in cryotherapy. Robert, in turn, became a director of the company. But after just 17 days the media revealed that the founder and co-director of the company Neranjan de Silva had previously been convicted of rape. (An appeal for the sentence to be quashed was eventually dismissed.)

Robert, who was Morrison’s assistant treasurer when the news broke, said de Silva hadn’t told him about the sentence.

Disability services

As Robert unlocked himself in the Cryo Australia venture, Margerison was going from strength to strength at a healthcare company called DJ Health, part of the larger DJ Group which has an ownership and equity arm. Margerison was director and secretary of DJ Health, the engine room for several companies involved in disability services. DJ Health director Nicole Wright also joined as director of Cryo Australia on the same day as Stuart Robert.

And the business ties between Robert and Margerison went further. ASIC documents show that both DJ Health and the Australian Ibero-American Business Council were registered at Sean Beasley Accountants’ address in Robina, Queensland.

OhOther disability services businesses registered with Sean Beasley Accountants in which Margerison is a director or an investor include United Disability Care (covering Queensland and NSW), Social Solutions (WA) and Adelaide Supportive Care.

United Disability Care’s annual report for June 2020 – which covers a period when Robert was minister in charge of NDIS – shows that the company has received $ 29 million in NDIS funding. The annual report also showed more than $ 5 million in related party relationships with Margerison’s corporate entities.

The wall of secrecy rises

In August 2018, just as the Robert-Margerison partnership was expanding, Robert was returned to the ministry and forced to reorganize his financial affairs to avoid a conflict of interest. He then resigned from Cryo Australia and JM National Property. (Margerison remains a director of JM National Property.)

Robert then closed the curtain on his investments, declaring on his register of parliamentary interests that all of his assets had been placed “in Blind Trusts that were independent of me, where I have no control over investment decisions and where I am externally managed professionally “. The statement concerned the assets of the family trust fund, the self-managed super fund and the main investment vehicle “Robert Property Portfolio”. He further stated that all the shares held in his name, his wife and children had been sold.

This means that, since the re-election of the Morrison government in May 2019, Robert’s register of parliamentary interests has been little more than a blank page at a time when he was in charge of the multibillion-dollar NDIS budget and was privy to confidential information about the scheme.

At the same time, Margerison’s DJ Health, like other disabled service providers, has branched out into the highly profitable area of ​​specialized disabled housing – an investment in rolled gold underwritten by federal government incentives to stimulate construction of housing for individuals. with disabilities.

Woh he is not alleging any errors on the part of Robert or anyone else. The point is that if a Crown Minister has a blind trust, the public should have a right to know the good faith of the agreement – including who is administering the trust – so there can be no hint of a conflict of interest.

Robert, however, has never made it clear who manages his blind trust.

Next: Why? Woh is investigating Stuart Robert.

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