Saturday, February 18, 2023

Perrottet’s close ally resigns over Transurban shares


Perrottet’s close ally resigns over Transurban shares

One of Dominic Perrottet’s most senior ministers has resigned on the eve of an election campaign after revelations his superannuation fund held shares in tollroad giant Transurban, while he sat in cabinet which made decisions involving the company.

Finance Minister Damien Tudehope resigned from the ministry and from his role as the government’s leader in the Legislative Council on Friday.

He insisted that he had no knowledge of the shares before a media outlet contacted his office on Thursday, despite submitting a copy of his super fund’s holdings every year as part of his ministerial obligations.

The NSW premier also lost parliamentary secretary Peter Poulos, who stepped down on Friday after he admitted sending explicit images.

Under Fire: Finance Minister Damien Tudehope Louie Douvis

Mr Tudehope claimed he obtained departmental legal advice which had cleared him of knowingly breaching the ministerial code of conduct, but still resigned, saying the debacle had become an unnecessary distraction.

“When it was brought to my attention that held within my family superannuation fund are shares in the company Transurban I took action to remove them from my fund,” he said in a statement.

“The events of the last 24 hours have provided an unnecessary distraction for the government.”

Transurban recently reported record half-year earnings of $1.66 billion, boosted by some $835 million in tolls collected from Sydney drivers over the course of the past six months.

Mr Tudehope was a cabinet minister during the Berejiklian government’s decision to sell the WestConnex toll road to Transurban for $11 billion in 2021. More recently, he took part in a number of cabinet decisions to provide toll relief to NSW drivers.

Earlier, he denied being “involved in any discussions relating to WestConnex” and claimed he “was not on the relevant committee or relevant cabinet meetings”.

“The first thing is whether there was a significant impact, and whether I knowingly breached the code of conduct, and I have to say, I didn’t know that I held those shares at the time that I participated in policy decisions relating to Transurban,” he said.

He said that the shares were sold by Friday morning and that a profit – he expects to be about $6000 – will be given to charity.

The revelations are a distracting blow of the Perrottet government as it prepares to launch its election campaign ahead of polling day on March 25.

Mr Tudehope is one of Mr Perrottet’s closest conservative factional allies and has been one of the most active ministers in the Perrottet government handling finance as well as the fall out of a bruising and long-running industrial dispute with the state’s railway workers.

‘Beggars belief’

Labor’s upper house leader Penny Sharpe said Mr Tudehope had breached the ministerial code of conduct.

“It beggars belief that a minister with such important responsibilities was unaware, or made no inquiries into the shares that he owned, and therefore let potential conflict of interests in government decision-making arise,” she said.

Mr Tudehope’s situation is reminiscent of the 2019 revelations that Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas held shares in Transurban when it won a government contract to build the West Gate Tunnel.

Mr Pallas came under fire after it was revealed he held the shares as part of a Westpac BlueChip20 fund he set up in 2011. He maintained that he had complied with all obligations and that there was no conflict of interest, describing the portfolio as “set-and-forget”. He sold the portfolio later that year.

Earlier in the day Premier Dominic Perrottet said he had requested advice from the Department of Premier and Cabinet regarding Mr Tudehope’s shareholding.

“Damien is an incredibly honest and upright man but there are responsibilities for ministers,” he said.

Parliamentary secretary Peter Poulos has stepped down from his role after he admitted sending explicit images of his colleague Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston, inset. 

Premier Dominic Perrottet also has announced that parliamentary secretary Peter Poulos has stepped down from his role after he admitted sending explicit images of his colleague Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston in the lead-up to a preselection battle.

Mr Poulos, an upper house MP who used to work for Treasurer Matt Kean, apologised to Ms Preston for his actions, and he was reprimanded by the premier.

During Mr Preston’s preselection, it emerged she had modelled as a Penthouse “pet” in the 1980s and Ms Poulos shared an image of her via email five years ago.

Labor also had a setback, with former Canberra Raiders captain Terry Campese pulling out as Labor’s candidate for the seat of Monaro after a series of reports into his behaviour.

The charity founder was an outside chance of taking the southern NSW seat, held by former Nationals leader John Barilaro from 2011 to 2021.

But he’s faced weeks of media attention, including over a scandalous party and how he came to be selected as the party’s candidate.

“I have come to realise that, for some, politics is not about representing people but about their own power with a ‘win at all costs’ mentality,” he said.

“(I will stand down) not because my heart isn’t in it but because I love this community too much to drag it through the media - whether they are truthful or not.

“However, I will continue to serve my community in the same way I have over the last decade, through the work of my foundation and other charities.”

Labor enjoyed a 6.4 per cent swing at a 2022 by-election caused by Mr Barilaro’s retirement. Replicating that on March 25 would take it out of National hands but the party now faces a rush to find another representative.

with AAP

Luca Ittimani is an intern in The Australian Financial Review's Canberra bureau.
Samantha Hutchinson is the AFR's National Reporter. Most recently, she was CBD columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Before that, she covered Victorian and NSW politics and business for The Australian, the AFR and BRW Magazine.Connect with Samantha on Twitter. Email Samantha at