The State Government has denied that there has been a conflict of interest over a multi-million-dollar telecommunications contract with Chinese telco Huawei, despite revelations of travel and gifts to two government ministers while in opposition.
Current Transport Minister Rita Saffioti and Education Minister Sue Ellery received an all-expenses paid tour of China and free mobile phones from the company in 2015 during a trip to the country.
The Chinese government-owned company, which has won the Public Transport Authority’s $136 million contract to provide Perth’s rail network with a 4G data network, paid for the five-day trip including travel costs, accommodation, meals, entertainment and the phones.
Both Ms Saffioti and Ms Ellery do not and have not used the phones, according to a state government spokesperson.
Other MPs on the trip also received phones including Labor’s Kate Doust as well as the Liberal party’s Paul Miles and Jim Chown.
According to statements made in Parliament, they had also used travel entitlements to meet the majority of the costs of the trip, but Huawei contributed.
Ms Saffioti also said in a report to parliament in 2015 that she used her travel entitlements to pay for her flights to and from China, but internal flights had been paid for by Huawei.
Deputy Premier Roger Cook said the information had been made available to parliament.
“The only reason why we actually have this information today is because Sue Ellery and Rita Saffioti made that information available, reported it to parliament,” Mr Cook said.
He claimed the phones received by the ministers did not pose a security risk.
“Well those phones would potentially and I repeat potentially be a risk if they were actually used,” he said.
He also said it had been substantiated that the phones were not used.
“I can certainly speak for minister Saffioti and Ellery when I say they are not used and in the case of minister Ellery, never used,” Mr Cook said.
Mr Cook denied accusations that it was not improper to be involved in corporate sponsored delegations.
“Now let’s look at the conduct of the Liberal party members of that particular delegation. One didn’t even mention the words Huawei in this report to parliament. The other did mention Huawei, didn’t mention the gift but went at great length to talk about what a great company Huawei is,” he said.
“If the suggestion is that no one should participate in these sorts of delegations to China with the sponsorship of organisations like Huawei, well clearly, they’re suggesting that Julie Bishop, Steve Ciobo, Steve Irons and other federal Liberal party members who are undertaking similar delegations have also conducted themselves improperly.”
“That is clearly a ludicrous situation to suggest.”