NSW MPs ‘completely lost’ on POTENTIAL FOREIGN INFLUENCE

Key Points …

-Prof Hamilton’s 2018 submission named ACETCA for it’s “close ties” to the Chinese government

WITH all the evidence to date of ‘political influence’ isn’t it time that such engagements with inducements were banned? That would eliminate any MP confusion?

-75% of ACETCA’s donations over the last 6 years have gone to the Liberal Party

-ACETCA had risen in prominence since the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China (ACPPRC); a body linked to Mr Huang, came under intense scrutiny

QUESTION why does this community maintain its prominence in Australia through political donations? IF not for material gain?

AND to maintain a distinct culture separate from that of Australia?

IS this not further proof of why political donations should be banned?

NSW MPs ‘completely lost’ on potential foreign influence

By Tom Rabe and Nick Bonyhady

August 26, 2019

A Chinese foreign influence expert has called for Australian intelligence agencies to share more advice with politicians as some MPs voice concern they’re “completely lost” with how to deal with organisations and their donations.

*As the state’s corruption watchdog this week prepares to investigate alleged claims the NSW Labor Party attempted to circumnavigate the state’s electoral funding laws with big Chinese donors, Professor Clive Hamilton said politicians needed more guidance.

*In a 2018 submission to the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Professor Hamilton named the Australia China Economic, Trade and Cultural Association (ACETCA) for it’s “close ties” to the Chinese government.

The 2016 ACETCA annual gala dinner, attended by several Labor and Liberal MPs.
The 2016 ACETCA annual gala dinner, attended by several Labor and Liberal MPs.

More than half a dozen NSW Liberal and Labor MPs have attended ACETCA events in recent years, with Liberal MP and Legislative Assembly speaker Jonathan O’Dea travelling with the association to China in June.

Opposition Leader Jodi McKay was also pictured this month at the organisation’s office, while federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese delivered a keynote speech to ACETCA’s annual dinner last year.

*Three quarters of ACETCA’s donations over the last six years have gone to the Liberal Party, with the group making close to 20 separate donations, according to NSW Electoral Commission disclosures.

Professor Hamilton stands by his 2018 submission and said Australian intelligence agencies needed to provide more advice to politicians.

“It’s also true that ASIO should be providing advice to politicians about which groups are suspect and which groups are kosher,” he said.

Despite growing concerns of foreign interference in politics, several NSW MPs said they had never received a briefing from intelligence agencies on which organisations to look out for.

“I’ve never received a briefing from ASIO, we are completely lost,” one MP said.

“I’m walking around like a blind person going ‘I don’t know, is this a legitimate organisation’.”

Another said many politicians were nervous to attend community or fundraising events for organisations they hadn’t been briefed about.

“No one knows what functions they should be saying yes or no to … it’s making a lot of people very nervous. Considering the environment, it’s really risky to not be briefed,” one MP said.

A spokesman for NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she “does not comment on national security matters or briefings”.

*Huang Xiangmo, the billionaire real estate developer and political donor, was listed as a patron of ACETCA on its defunct website and attended many of its events before his permanent residency was cancelled earlier this year on character grounds.

Mr Huang was pictured in a group photograph which has since been deleted, along with the organisation’s website, of ACETCA’s 2016 annual dinner in Sydney.

*Several government members including then-treasurer Ms Berejiklian and Mr O’Dea were at the event with Mr Huang, as well as then-Labor senator Sam Dastyari and then-NSW upper house MP Ernest Wong.

Liberal MP Jonathan O'Dea at an ACETCA event.
Liberal MP Jonathan O’Dea at an ACETCA event.

Mr Wong has been called to provide evidence to the Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry this Friday.

Mr Huang, whose dealings with the NSW Labor Party are also set to be scrutinised by the state’s corruption watchdog this week, has always denied being an agent of foreign influence.

He has described the Australian government’s actions towards him as “grotesquely unfair”, “prejudiced and groundless”.

ACETCA has donated close to $40,000 to state political parties since 2013, with most of the cash ($29,000) given to the Liberal Party through events attended by premiers, treasurers and MPs.

Mr O’Dea travelled to Fuzhou on China’s southeastern coast for an ACETCA conference this year.

The speaker and former parliamentary secretary for trade said while he paid for the international airfare, he received “assistance with travel, accommodation and some meals” from ACETCA on the trip, which he said he declared.

“I have for many years supported ACETCA activities and its objectives in promoting trade links between NSW/Australia and China as well as greater cultural and social understanding,” Mr O’Dea said in a statement.

ACETCA also donated close to $8000 to the Labor Party, including $1500 for an “election countdown dinner” for Ms McKay in May 2018.

A spokeswoman for Ms McKay said she would continue meeting with Chinese community groups “without fear or favour” given the cultural diversity of her electorate.

ACETCA donated towards two fundraising dinners for Liberal Member for Oatley Mark Coure, who is a ‘patron and honorary adviser’ to the organisation.

Mr Coure said he stood by his “staunch representation and advocacy” of multicultural groups in his diverse electorate.

Member for Drummoyne John Sidoti was also named twice in the donation disclosure logs to the Liberal Party.

A spokesman for Mr Sidoti said “donations are processed through the NSW Liberal Party and any inquiries about donations should be made to the NSW Liberal Party”.

Alex Joske, a China influence researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said ACETCA had risen in prominence since the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China (ACPPRC), a body linked to Mr Huang, came under intense scrutiny.

*“We’ve seen the ACETCA … essentially replacing the ACPPRC as one of the, if not the, central Chinese Communist Party-linked bodies in Sydney,” he said.

A number of senior Communist Party-linked figures attended an annual ACETCA dinner in Fujian, China, earlier this year.

Among them was former People’s Republic of China Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, a former president and adviser to the China Association for International Friendly Contact.

ACETCA was contacted multiple times for comment.

Tom Rabe

Tom Rabe is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald

Nick Bonyhady

Nick is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.

SOURCE: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/nsw-mps-completely-lost-on-potential-foreign-influence-20190825-p52kht.html

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