Macfarlane says dinner part of normal deliberations

Member for Groom Ian MacFarlane, Chinese businessman Li Ruipeng, former prime minister Tony Abbott, Liberal party donor Paul Marks, MP Stuart Robert and Bruce McIver.
Member for Groom Ian MacFarlane, Chinese businessman Li Ruipeng, former prime minister Tony Abbott, Liberal party donor Paul Marks, MP Stuart Robert and Bruce McIver. Herald Sun

MEMBER for Groom Ian Macfarlane has been drawn into embattled minister Stuart Robert's controversy, after a photo of him joining a Parliament House dinner with a Chinese businessman pursuing development and resources opportunities in Australia surfaced.

Embattled Liberal Minister Stuart Robert organised the dinner ahead of the 2013 federal election, hosting a meeting between Chinese businessman Li Ruipeng and senior Liberal members including then-Opposition leader Tony Abbott and Mr Macfarlane at the request of major Liberal donor Paul Marks.

At the end of the meeting, the three ministers were gifted with watches, that Mr Macfarlane said were "pulled out of a plastic bag".

The designer watches were worth about $250,000, with Mr Macfarlane's Rolex worth about $40,000.

Mr Robert is already under scrutiny after it was revealed he secretly joined Mr Marks in Beijing to attend a signing ceremony between Mr Mark's firm Nimrod Resources and Chinese government-owned Minmetals.

He also lead a delegation to meet a Chinese government minister on a trip claimed to be a holiday.

The then shadow resources minister Ian Macfarlane was part of what he said was an "informal dinner" at Parliament House in June 2013.

The dinner also hosted Treasurer Scott Morrison briefly.

Mr Macfarlane is seen holding up a drink with Chinese mogul Li Ruipeng, then Opposition leader Tony Abbott, Liberal donor Paul Marks, then shadow minister Stuart Robert and then Liberal National Party president Bruce McIver.

Mr Macfarlane was given a watch while Mr Robert and Mr Abbott each got two, one for themselves and their wives.

The ministers believed the watches to be fake, with Mr Macfarlane declaring his through the register of members' interests at a value of between $300 and $500.

"I have a receipt showing I handed the watch back to Paul Marks," Mr Macfarlane said.

A spokesperson for Mr Macfarlane said he would not be discussing the meeting any further and that Mr Macfarlane had done his due diligence in reporting the watch.

"This meeting was part of his normal deliberations."

After silence over his political future since his failed defection to the National Party, Mr Macfarlane will announce his decision later this month.



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