Former member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly has defended taking a role with a US technology company, after resigning from Parliament due to ongoing health issues.
Dr Kelly stood down over a fortnight ago after undergoing 10 operations in six months for renal issues linked to his military service in Iraq and Timor. His resignation has sparked a heated byelection in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
But over the weekend, reports emerged Dr Kelly had been recruited by Palantir Technologies, shortly after stepping down.
Dr Kelly had previously spruiked the work of the company during parliamentary proceedings, saying they "effectively vectored Osama Bin Laden's location".
In a statement on Monday, Dr Kelly said he was offered a job at Palantir "by a friend I served with in Iraq when my health issues made it impossible to carry on as the Member for Eden-Monaro".
"I have known and respected Palantir for many years as they have some wonderful people within the organisation who I have known going back to my service in Iraq," Dr Kelly said.
"Every year of my time in Parliament I have rejected many job offers. With my health situation forcing my decision to leave Parliament it has, however, necessitated my looking seriously at alternative employment in a desk job that enables me to continue to make a difference within the limits of my health constraints, as I am not in a position to retire and have no desire to.
"This new situation will enable me to continue to work on the causes that mean a great deal to me and that led me to go into politics in the first place. These causes include making Australia safer against the threat of terrorism and better able to defend ourselves generally including against pandemics, looking after veterans, improving our sovereign capabilities, making Australian businesses more competitive, improving the delivery of services to our community, improving our disaster response and fighting climate change."
Dr Kelly was the Minister for Defence Materiel for seven months in 2013, and held appointments as the parliamentary secretary for defence at various times between 2008 and 2013.
He was Labor's shadow assistant minister for defence industry and support from 2016 to June 2019, and shadow assistant minister for defence from then on.
Dr Kelly was also part of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, where he would have received access to some material not available to the general public through in-camera hearings.
However there are no rules about what politicians who have not been a government minister for longer than 18 months can and can't do after leaving Parliament.
"Having spent a number of years on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security defending Australian privacy and civil liberties, I also wanted to be in a position to continue this work," Dr Kelly said.
Dr Kelly also disputed reports that Palantir was involved in data mining and surveillance.
"They provide tools to manage information and enable people and organisations to make the best use of the data they lawfully gather and manage. They are a trusted service among our friends and allies as well as many NGO and civil society organisations, such as the UN World Food Program. They are also involved with a range of pro bono activities such as the prevention of child sex exploitation and helping veterans involved with bushfire recovery," Dr Kelly said.
Labor MP Mark Butler defended Dr Kelly, saying he deserved to be able to continue to work.
"I don't think anyone expected ... that he was simply just going to hang up his boots and not do any work anymore. He does still have an important contribution to make to this country and I'm very glad he has found the opportunity to do that," Mr Butler said.