Barnaby Joyce buys up land near Inland Rail project
DEPUTY Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce did not declare during Cabinet discussions on the Inland Rail that he had bought five large parcels of land within a 15-minute drive from the planned route.
When former Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester took the Inland Rail project to Cabinet, The Daily Telegraph understands it passed quickly, with no mention from Mr Joyce of any potential conflict of interest relating to five lots of land he had bought within about 20km of the project.
The current Nationals leader's office said that he was not required to make any declaration.
Mr Joyce purchased the first two blocks of rural land, on two separate land titles, in Warrumbungle Shire, north of Coonamble, in July 2006 for $230,000.
He added to his land purchase two years later with an adjacent Gwabegar property and a second Warrumbungle property, occupying another two land titles, in February 2008 for $342,571.
The Cabinet handbook's section on Declarations of Private Interests states: "Ministers and officials attending Cabinet or Cabinet committee meetings must declare any private interests of which they are aware."
Mr Joyce's spokeswoman indicated that he did not need to declare the land to Cabinet during discussions on the Inland Rail route.
"There has never been a proposal to have a stop near Warrumbungle or Gwabegar," she said. "Mr Joyce has had no role in selecting the route."
Opposition Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development spokesman Anthony Albanese said this appeared to be yet another breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct by Mr Joyce.
"Given that Barnaby Joyce has spoken about the benefits of Inland Rail for those on the land along the route, it is reasonable to expect he would be mindful of declaring any direct interest he might have," he said.
The Daily Telegraph understands Mr Chester took the proposal to Cabinet and it was adopted swiftly. The only area of debate was the route's alignment near Toowoomba in Queensland.
The value of the rural land properties near the Inland Rail route would be expected to increase when the project is complete.
At the time he purchased the first two lots of land in 2006, Mr Joyce was a Queensland senator in the Howard government.
During 2006 work was done by then transport and regional services minister Warren Truss on proposed routes for a potential inland rail project.
The North-South Rail Corridor Study, made public in September 2006, included Coonamble as a stop on a proposed route.
The proposed rail route is about 20km west of Mr Joyce's properties.