Tim Wilson backed by Scott Morrison despite conflict of interest claims

Scott Morrison has given a firm “no” to Labor demands that Liberal Tim Wilson be sacked as chair of a high-profile parliamentary committee for a conflict of interest.

“Labor frankly have no shame when it comes to this issue,” the prime minister said today.

But that is unlikely to save outspoken Victorian backbencher Mr Wilson from a torrid time when parliament returns next week.

Mr Wilson is accused of using the House of Representatives Economic Committee, which he chairs, to mobilise public rejection of Labor’s policy to scrap franking tax credit “refunds” enjoyed by some 800,000 retirees who pay no tax.

He in effect stacked witnesses to the committee by holding public gatherings at which opponents to the policy were offered speaking priority if they sign a protest petition.

And he has been linked to a financial advice firm run by a relative — to which he is further connected through investments — who is opposing the policy to protect its earnings.

“Millions of dollars of taxpayer funded advertisements for clearly political purposes,” Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said.

media_cameraInquiry into the implications of removing refundable franking credits held in Townsville by Tim Wilson.
media_cameraResidents of the marginal electorate of Eden-Monaro have attended a taxpayer-funded parliamentary hearing held by Tim Wilson. Picture: Hollie Adams

Mr Bowen accused Tim Wilson of “collusion in a taxpayer-funded roadshow for partisan purposes dressed up as a House of Representatives committee”.

“This Government knows no limits when it comes to desperate political tactics to cover their lack of achievements, their lack of vision,” Mr Bowen said.

“Their willingness to engage in taxpayer funded political advertising knows no bounds. Now Tim Wilson has no choice but to resign and if he won’t resign the Prime Minister should sack him.”

Mr Wilson has rejected the charges and in turn attacked the Opposition.

“Bill Shorten wants to silence Australian retirees whom they are robbing blind. Their voices and their stories deserve to be heard,” he said.

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media_cameraScott Morrison has dismissed calls he sack Tim Wilson for an undeclared conflict of interest. Picture: Aaron Francis

And Scott Morrison ramped up the response today.

“So the Labor Party aren’t content with arrogantly dismissing thousands upon thousands, hundreds of thousands of retirees around our country who they basically want to steal money from with higher taxes,” the Prime Minister told reporters.

“Now they’re going to throw mud at the person who is giving those retirees a voice? Labor frankly have no shame when it comes to this issue.

“They don’t want to listen to retirees, they have arrogantly dismissed them and now they want to shut down people who are trying to give retirees a voice.

“This is classic Labor, classic thuggish Labor, throwing mud wherever they can because they do not want to face up to the fact that they’re putting a $5 billion a year tax on the retirees.”

However, Shadow Treasury Spokesman Matt Thistlewaite said Mr Wilson “has a massive conflict of interest in that he is a shareholder in the company that’s been leading the charge in undermining this policy”.

media_cameraLiberal MP Tim Wilson is under fire for a perceived conflict of interest. Picture: Hollie Adams

“When the referral came to the House Economics Committee, the Labor members thought it quite strange that the Government was trying to inquire into an Opposition policy,” he said.

“As you know the role of the House Economics Committee is to inquire into proposed Government legislation and to hear the views of the Australian public.

“We thought it was the fact that the Government didn’t have any economic policies that they were seeking to look into a Labor policy.”

He said it was now known Mr Wilson was a shareholder in a company “that’s been leading the charge against this particular Labor policy and months before this committee inquiry was established”.

Geoff Wilson, the principal of Wilson Asset Management, said in an audio recording that he contacted Mr Wilson and asked him as committee chair to hold an inquiry and, Labor says, “use taxpayer funds to travel around the country and seek to undermine Labor policy”.

Continue the conversation malcolm.farr@news.com.au | @farrm51

Originally published as ScoMo backs under fire Liberal MP

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