Another Turnbull Conflict Of Interest?

Hot on the heels of a potential conflict of interest from opposition communications spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, and his investments in France Telecom, another possible conflict of interest investment has risen.

It is apparent that Turnbull’s wife Lucy has a shareholding in Vodafone, in information taken from a register of poltical interests published by the Sydney Morning Herald.

It is not clear whether this investment relates to Vodafone in Australia, or other overseas arms of the telecommunications company.

However it is on the register, and presents another possible investment that might be proper to divest from, given Malcolm’s role as communications spokesman. All parliamentarians are required to declare the interests of themselves and their spouses.

Ministers must divest themselves of any conflicts related to their portfolio.

Are the communications investments of the Turnbulls, affecting Malcolm’s policy positions?

Maybe, maybe not.

Given another possible conflict of interest, the question needs to be asked more firmly than before.

UPDATE: 6:25pm – The office of Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed that while Lucy Turnbull did hold shares in Vodafone, she no longer holds them.

Assuming this to be correct, any possible conflict of interest with respect to these shares should now be gone, and the SMH register would appear to have out of date information.

One point still remains though.

I do still however find it curious that these shares were still taken up in 2012 – (when they were added to the register) – and apparently divested also in 2012. At all times while Mrs Turnbull held them, her husband was the communications spokesperson for the opposition.

The question of a conflict of interest remains over Mr Turnbull’s shares in France Telecom.

  • bobbob

    Well that’s one major incentive to destroy fixed line in Australia. Insider Trading at the highest levels.

    • Firstly, I think “insider trading” is a bit harsh.

      Secondly, Turnbull’s office – (see the update to the article) – have confirmed while Lucy held the shares, she no longer does.

      Why they were held at any time Malcolm is the communications spokesperson is still an interesting question.

  • Well hate to point this out but a) Turnbull isn’t actually making policy as he is in opposition and b) Vodafone owns half of a loss making Australian operation which represents 1/10th of sweet nothing of the firm’s overall profits globally. Voda turns over 46 billion pounds annually – Australia isn’t even broken out in these results but is listed as part of “Other Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific” which is a single digit percentile contributor to results. Short of a promise to ban all competition I’m not sure what Mr Turnbull could do or say that would influence a share price which is so NOT influenced by Australia it isn’t funny. I agree it is not a good look for his family to hold any telecom shares but given Mr Turnbull has yet to release any semblance of a spectrum policy I’m not clear what influence he is bringing to bear on the firm’s prospects in Australia, But going through the register (which is on the APH website) I note two things: our pollies accept loads of freebies from airlines and professional sporting codes – both of which are majorly affected by government policy – and not very many of them own shares in anything which makes them very different to normal Australians of similar earning power. Perhaps our politicians might make better policy if they actually had some personal interests in the private economy and understood how it works? And perhaps if they stopped feeding in football finals and business class troughs we might have better broadcasting and aviation policy?

    • Firstly, Turnbull DOES make policy. The alternative NBN policy he refuses to release, is nonetheless, a policy. Whatever it happens to be.

      I don’t believe that the “size” of Vodafone – (and it still isn’t clear whether the investment related to Vodafone in Australia, or whichever other Vodafone subsidiary / joint venture around the world) – really matters at all.

      You can’t be “a little bit pregnant” – you either are, or you are not. Similarly, you have an investment, or you don’t have an investment.

      It’s pretty black and white.

      Whether it is good or bad for politicians have investments in matters that relate to their portfolios is irrelevant. The rules are the rules as they stand at the moment.

      • The rules are that you declare your conflicts of interest, not that you can’t have them. Turnbull’s wife’s ownership of shares which accrue a percent or two of value from Australia is no different to the undeclared interest every government politician with superannuation has in Telstra – which as Australia’s 4th or so biggest stock tends to be held by every major fund. You know perfectly well that Vodafone is not listed in Australia and it is only listed in the UK and the US. You also know perfectly well that Turnbull only has a potential conflict of interest because in opposition he has no means to successfully propose legislation or declare a statute that has any relevance to the share price of Vodafone. Buying and selling a stock when in opposition against a solid ALP-Greens-Independents voting bloc that prevails in every relevant vote is next to irrelevant in terms of the grand scheme of what the register is aiming to achieve. That is black and white as is the fact that you are flying a kite without sufficient wind.

        • If an election were called today, all of a sudden all of these ‘potential’ conflicts of interest suddenly moving from the ‘potentiality’ column into the ‘actuality’ column, because Turnbull will absolutely be ‘making policy’. That is the point.

          That I – (and others) – believe they are a conflict right now is fair and reasonable. When Turnbull says that Australia should look to the broadband model that France Telecom is using, he is – (whether he means to or not) – using his public voice in his shadow ministerial role, to support France Telecom’s model. The market can see that as an endorsement, and affect the value of the shares.

          He might not be in a *ministerial* conflict of interest – (he isn’t yet a minister) – or even a *parliamentary* conflict of interest. I’m not saying he’s broken any of those rules.

          What I am saying is that because he has a significant voice in the debate, it is still a conflict of interest.

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