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Eddington quits British intelligence firm over ‘conflict

  • Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker
  • October 15, 2008

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd’s chief infrastructure adviser, businessman Rod Eddington, has resigned from the advisory board of a secretive British corporate intelligence firm after accusations that the dual roles amounted to a conflict of interest.

The resignation of Sir Rod, who is the head of Infrastructure Australia, comes after The Age reported yesterday that he had an unpaid role advising Hakluyt & Co. The firm, founded in the 1990s by former British intelligence officers, provides companies with high-level business and political intelligence on investment opportunities around the world.

Hakluyt has been embroiled in several corporate spying scandals and was caught in 2001 paying a former German intelligence agent to infiltrate green groups in Europe on behalf of the Shell and BP oil companies.

Sir Rod told The Age yesterday he had resigned from the Hakluyt advisory board “to remove any perception of future conflict of interest”.

“The work of Infrastructure Australia is too important to be distracted by this issue,” he said, stressing that he had never advised Hakluyt about Australian Government policy.

Although its Australian client base remains secret, Hakluyt is active in Australia. Its Australian director is Sydney-based former British diplomat Philip Morrice.

Sir Rod was appointed to Hakluyt’s advisory board in 2005. Since February he has been chairman of Infrastructure Australia, a Federal Government body charged with modernising the nation’s water, transport, communications and energy assets through the $20 billion Building Australia fund.

Before his resignation from Hakluyt yesterday, Sir Rodd’s dual roles were attacked by Greens leader Bob Brown, who labelled them a “clear conflict of interest” and demanded the respected businessman sever ties with Hakluyt.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Andrew Robb said yesterday he assumed the Government had no problems with Sir Rod’s role on the Hakluyt advisory board when it appointed him as chairman of Infrastructure Australia.

“These perceived conflicts of interest are all the more reason why it is important that the decision-making process of Infrastructure Australia is transparent and the detailed analysis of each project is made public prior to the Rudd cabinet making decisions on which projects to fund,” Mr Robb said.


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