Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Malcolm Turnbull orders inquiry following revelations ASIO warned parties about Chinese donations

    Extract from ABC News

    Updated 53 minutes ago

    Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has ordered a major inquiry into the nation's espionage and foreign interference laws, amid concerns about Chinese influence in Australian politics.
    A Four Corners-Fairfax investigation has discovered Australia's spy agency ASIO warned the Coalition and Labor about taking donations from two billionaires with links to the Chinese Communist Party.
    But the parties did not stop, with the Coalition then accepting $800,000 and Labor $200,000.
    Attorney-General George Brandis said he was examining whether the espionage offences in the criminal code are adequate.
    "The threat of political interference by foreign intelligence services is a problem of the highest order and it is getting worse," Senator Brandis said in a statement.
    "Earlier this year the Prime Minister initiated a comprehensive review of Australia's espionage and foreign interference laws, which he asked me to lead.
    "I will be taking legislative reforms to Cabinet with a view to introducing legislation before the end of the year."
    Between them, the businessmen and associated entities have donated about $6.7 million to the major parties over a decade.

    Dastyari lobbied Immigration Department for Chinese donor

    It was also revealed Labor senator Sam Dastyari personally contacted the Immigration Department twice to support one of the donors, Huang Xiangmo's, application for Australian citizenship. ASIO has stalled the request.
    Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said he is very concerned about the revelations on Four Corners.
    "I absolutely abhor the idea that some other nation would have influence in our government, especially if is attached to a pecuniary benefit to any individual," Mr Joyce said.
    "There is a vast difference between a party getting a donation — there is no real direct benefit to a person.
    "But if people are buying influence in our nation, well, we can't abide by that in any shape or form from any country, not just China, any country."
    Senator Dastyari said in a statement he had cut all ties with the Chinese businessman.
    "After the events of last year, I spoke to Mr Huang to tell him that I did not think it was appropriate that we have future contact," he said.
    "I thought it was a matter of common courtesy to say this face to face. Neither my office or I have spoken to Mr Huang since."
    He said Australian intelligence agencies had not given him any warning about the businessman.

    Government push for ban on foreign donations

    Mr Joyce also indicated support for changing the laws to ban foreign donations but said it should be broader than just the political parties.
    "There has to be greater transparency across the whole field," Mr Joyce said.
    "It is not just two political parties but also quasi political parties who act as political parties, such as Get Up.
    "We have got to know that if you are involved in the political process, if you are trying to influence votes, if you are trying to change the direction of the nation, well that is fair enough. But we have got to know who is trying to change your direction."

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