(Image: Tom Red/Private Media)

As the fallout from the Greensill collapse continues, threatening to send the Whyalla steelworks into administration, the silence from those spruiking its products is becoming deafening.

In the UK, David Cameron is being relentlessly pursued by the media and opposition members over his role in lobbying the government on behalf of the doomed lender, owned by Australian entrepreneur Lex Greensill.

But not so of the lobbyists doing Greensill’s work here, who have so far gotten off scot-free.

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Julie Bishop worked alongside Cameron to promote Greensill’s supply chain financing products to governments around the world. She remained a registered lobbyist for the company until March when she reportedly tore up her consultancy agreement as the financing empire began to crumble.

But with thousands of Australian workers now facing an uncertain future, surely we deserve to know a bit more about Bishop’s role promoting the company, particularly to senior members of the government?

Bishop’s role

Bishop was a “senior adviser to the board” of Greensill alongside Cameron. She became a registered lobbyist for Greensill via her lobbying company Julie Bishop & Partners in April last year.

This allowed her access to Parliament House to promote Greensill’s supply chain finance products to senior government ministers. But her lobbying powers extended beyond the halls of Parliament.

In July she was responsible for arranging a key meeting with Greensill and former finance minister Mathias Cormann in Davos to pitch his wages on demand scheme to the Australian government for use on 150,000 Commonwealth public servants. The Australian has now revealed she was not a registered lobbyist at the time of this meeting. Cormann ended up rejecting the wages idea, calling the scheme “economically similar to payday lending”.

Before becoming a registered lobbyist, Bishop was also Greensill’s “Asia Pacific chairman”, a role she took on in December 2019 shortly after leaving politics in May of the same year. Greensill said at the time he wanted to draw on Bishop’s “international credentials” as he grew his global business.

But despite all these connections, Bishop has said nothing of the Greensill collapse, except to say she was never a “director or member” of the Greensill Capital board.

The AFR has already pointed out the obvious silence stemming from Bishop since Greensill’s spectacular downfall. Compared to Cameron there has been little scrutiny overall of the former foreign minister’s relationship with Greensill.

But Bishop wasn’t always so discreet about her relationship with the so-called Bundaberg billionaire. Last year she was photographed throwing snow with him at Davos. And last January she hailed Greensill’s financing model as having the potential to “transform relationships throughout the world’s complex supply chains”.

Crikey sent some questions to Bishop via her company Julie Bishop & Partners on Tuesday March 30. Nine days later, we are yet to receive a response.

For the record, here are some of the questions we believe she needs to answer:

  • Did you set up a meeting with Lex Greensill, David Cameron and Mathias Cormann at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year?
  • What was the purpose of that meeting and was it to get government backing for a wage-payment app?
  • Given what has now come out about the Greensill business, do you regret setting that meeting up?
  • Did you arrange a private meeting with Lex Greensill and Prime Minister Scott Morrison in late October 2019?
  • Which members of the government did you lobby on behalf of Greensill?
  • What were you lobbying for on behalf of Greensill, and were you lobbying for access to government-backed loans such as in the UK?
  • How were you paid for your time as a lobbyist? Were you promised any financial benefits on top of a regular fee?
  • Are you, or have you ever been, a Greensill shareholder?
  • Were you aware of how close Greensill Capital’s relationship with Sanjeev Gupta was?
  • Were you aware how much money was being loaned to Gupta’s metals empire, GFG Alliance?

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Australia has spoken. We want more from the people in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it’s been made abundantly clear that at Crikey we’re on the right track.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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