4 Jun 2009

Fitzgibbon resigns as Australian defence minister

4:21 pm on 4 June 2009

Australia's Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has resigned from his portfolio.

The resignation comes after revelations of Mr Fitzgibbon's involvement in instructing an army general to attend meetings with his brother at which defence health contracting was discussed.

Major-General Paul Alexander, who is in charge of defence health services, told a parliamentary committee that staff of a junior minister and defence staff told him to attend the meetings attended by Mark Fitzgibbon, the chief executive of insurer NIB Health.

In a letter to Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Mr Fitzgibbon said to protect the integrity of the government, he had decided to resign as defence minister effective immediately.

Mr Fitzgibbon is the first person to leave the Labor government ministry since Mr Rudd won power in November 2007.

It follows admissions two months ago that he failed to declare trips to China paid for by Chinese-born businesswoman Helen Liu.

This week, he admitted he had failed to declare hotel accommodation paid for by NIB.

The opposition had called for him to go.

Mr Rudd said Mr Fitzgibbon had offered his resignation and that he had accepted it, saying it was the right thing to do.

He said he expected high standards of accountability from every minister.

"I've made clear to my ministers over a long period of time the government expects high standards of accountability on the part of it ministers.

"All my ministers are familiar with that and it's on that basis the minister has extended his resignation."