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Robb's china job a smart move: Labor MP

AAP logoAAP 1/11/2016 Lucy Hughes Jones

Federal Labor MP Warren Snowdon says former trade minister Andrew Robb is a "good pick" to work with Chinese company Landbridge, which operates Darwin Port.

Mr Robb, who stood down as Australia's trade minister in February, became a senior economic adviser to the contentious firm two months ago.

"He's entitled to look for work and Landbridge have done a smart thing. I think he's probably a good pick for them," Mr Snowdon told AAP.

The member for the Northern Territory seat of Lingiari said Mr Robb can't use information he acquired as a minister for commercial advantage.

"He can't be lobbying the government on trade-related issues that were part of his portfolio for 18 months," he said.

"But I think he's a man of principle so I don't think there's any question of him using confidential material. He would know that that's illegal."

Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh has criticised the move, saying the Chinese firm may have gained access to sensitive Australian government information.

But NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner has refused to condemn the appointment.

"Andrew Robb as the federal minister had excellent relationships with China. I've got to see the positives in this, and I've got to try and find the maximum benefit out of this for the Territory," Mr Gunner told ABC radio.

In October 2015, Landbridge was named as the winning bidder for a 99-year lease for the Port of Darwin.

The lease sparked concerns from within defence about a Chinese company taking control of what could be considered a strategic asset.

It also led the coalition government to appoint former spy chief David Irvine to the Foreign Investment Review Board in December 2015, in a bid to add "national security expertise" to the advisory body.

Trade minister Steven Ciobo has backed his predecessor, saying his opponents are just trying to sling mud.

Mr Ciobo said ex-parliamentarians should use their expertise to promote Australia's national interests and drive business to local companies "by taking advantage of opportunities in Asia, including China".

"That is precisely I think what they should be doing," he told Sky News.

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