THE nation's most senior bureaucrat has found embattled MP Stuart Robert acted "inconsistently" with the ministerial standards during a "personal" trip to China for a mining deal signing ceremony.
Furore had surrounded Mr Robert throughout this week's parliamentary sittings in Canberra after the Herald Sun revealed his trip to China, where he joined a prominent Liberal donor at the ceremony.
The donor, Paul Marks, chairman of Nimrod Resources, attended alongside Mr Robert at the signing ceremony with Chinese state-owned enterprise MinMetals.
While Mr Robert has said earlier in the week he believed he did not act "inappropriately" on the trip, Chinese documents appeared to show him attending officially as Assistant Defence Minister during the 2014 trip.
Labor leader Bill Shorten had attacked Mr Robert and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull throughout the week, calling for Mr Turnbull to sack Mr Robert from the ministry.
Mr Turnbull ordered Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Martin Parkinson to investigate the matter on Tuesday.
On Friday he said in a statement that Dr Parkinson had completed his investigation, finding Mr Robert had acted inconsistently with the Statement of Ministerial Standards.
But he said Dr Parkinson "accepts that Mr Robert may not have intended to do so".
Mr Robert on Friday afternoon asked Mr Turnbull "not to consider" him in a pending reshuffle of the ministry, as Mr Turnbull looks to renew the ministry ahead of the election. The reshuffle was expected to be announced over the weekend, after Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss announced his retirement.
Former deputy Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce was elected party leader on Thursday night, while the party room elected its first woman to a senior role - Senator Fiona Nash as deputy leader.
Mr Joyce said he was hoping to secure a fourth seat in Cabinet for the Nationals, given growth in the party's numbers in the Coalition since the election.
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