Human Services minister Stuart Robert is set to resign from the ministry following an internal investigation into his conduct, as prime minister Malcolm Turnbull prepares for a cabinet reshuffle.
The removal of the Queensland MP comes amid mounting speculation Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull could announce a cabinet reshuffle as early as Sunday..
The opposition has been calling for Robert's head over a 2014 trip to China, amid accusations he misused his public office on the trip.
The former assistant defence minister visited Beijing in 2014 and attended a signing ceremony between his friend and Liberal Party donor Paul Marks and Chinese owned company Minmetals.
In a statement, Turnbull said Robert advised Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Martin Parkinson, that shares in Metallum Holdings, a company in which Marks was also a shareholder, had been allocated to his trustee before the Beijing visit.
He told Parkinson it had been done without his knowledge.
"He further advised Dr Parkinson that he believed Metallum Holdings Pty Ltd had an interest in Nimrod Resources," Turnbull said
"As a result, Mr Robert has asked me not to consider him in the pending reshuffle of the ministry.
"Dr Parkinson concluded that Mr Robert had acted inconsistently with the Statement of Ministerial Standards, although he accepts that Mr Robert may not have intended to do so. He also notes that Mr Robert appears not to have received any financial benefit and that the conduct in question did not directly relate to Mr Robert’s Ministerial duties."
The full statement from Prime Minister Turnbull
The government has been under sustained Opposition pressure in question time this week, while earlier on Friday incoming Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce defended Robert.
"What we have here is allegations he met people," Joyce told Sky News.
"If meeting people in China is a crime then every person in this building is gone."
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Turnbull should have sacked Robert on Monday.
"I'm amazed that Malcolm Turnbull has let this matter go on for five days," Shorten said.
He said the matter exposed deeper divisions between treasurer Scott Morrison and Turnbull.
"Everyone knows that Stuart Robert was Scott Morrison's key ally and that Scott Morrison, the Treasurer, didn't want Stuart Robert to go," Shorten said.
"So what is clear is that Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull are divided about tax reform, Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull were divided about what to do with Stuart Robert."