China sunders the Australian Parliament

Gladys Liu smiles as she's surrounded by other newly elected politicians

PHOTO: Gladys Liu had a reputation for her fundraising abilities prior to entering the Federal Parliament. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

China sunders the Australian Parliament

By Houses and Holes in Australian Politics

September 12, 2019 | 104 comments

The pretense that everything is OK in Australian democracy has cracked open and fallen on the floor. Let’s begin with the interview that kicked it all off, which every Australian should watch:

It gets worse today, via the ABC:

Gladys Liu’s association with Chinese figures who were deemed a security risk was the subject of an ASIO investigation even before she entered Parliament or became a Liberal Party candidate.

The ABC understands ASIO Director-General Duncan Lewis advised that then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, based on the guest list, should not attend a “meet and greet” organised by Ms Liu in the Victorian electorate of Chisholm for Chinese New Year in February 2018.

At the time, Julia Banks was the Liberal MP for the eastern Melbourne seat and Ms Liu was active in Chisholm Liberal Party circles.

Ms Liu had already earned a reputation as a supreme fundraiser.

In the wake of the Sam Dastyari affair the year before, Mr Turnbull’s office had developed a standard procedure to request the guest list for fundraisers or major organised events where the PM was invited.

About three or four weeks before the February 18 “meet and greet” in Box Hill, Mr Turnbull’s office asked for a guestlist from Ms Banks’s office.

It duly arrived on an A4 sheet of paper with about 30 names from the Chinese community.

This list was then forwarded to ASIO for vetting.

The advice from the Director-General was that Mr Turnbull should not attend the meeting.

The ABC understands Mr Turnbull was not directly told of Mr Lewis’s advice. Instead, Mr Turnbull attended Chinese New Year celebrations in inner Melbourne alongside Ms Banks, one of his loyalists.

After the leadership coup that saw Mr Turnbull ousted in August 2018, Ms Banks said she would not recontest the federal election for the Liberal Party in Chisholm.

Three months later, Ms Banks quit the Liberal Party altogether, putting the Morrison Government further into minority status.

Ms Liu won Liberal preselection in late October.

And is now in the Government sitting right next to the new PM every day. Ms Liu has today come out and changed her story again, via ABC:

Liberal backbencher Gladys Liu has confirmed she held membership of an organisation linked to China’s foreign interference operations, less than 24 hours after saying she could not recall being a part of it.

The Herald Sun confirms that the LNP was warned that Liu is unfit:

Senior Liberals say they were told the intelligence community warned the party against preselecting Gladys Liu for the seat of Chisholm before this year’s federal election.

Two state Liberal MPs and a former senior staffer have confirmed to the Herald Sun they were told in 2018 that “men in grey suits” had warned a senior party official there were concerns about Ms Liu’s links to the Chinese Communist Party and that it would not be wise for the Liberal Party to preselect her.

…The Herald Sun can now reveal senior Liberal figures were party to a conversation about the intelligence community’s concerns about Ms Liu with a party official in the lead-up to the Chisholm preselection in October last year.

According to one source present at the meeting, the party official said intelligence community sources had told him: “We can’t tell you what to do but we don’t think it would be a good idea.”

The sources agreed the party official had not said if the concerns had been raised by ASIO, but they said the official led them to believe the official had spoken with the intelligence community.

A source at the meeting said the official later discussed the concerns on another occasion.

Yet, yesterday, alas, with only a slim majority, the LNP put itself ahead of the national interest and dug in behind Ms Liu with various MPs defending her in bizarre scenes. Resource Minister Matt Canavan declared Xi Jinping is not a dictator, Marise Payne said all suggestions Ms Liu was unfit were “offensive” and Morrison said:

Mr Morrison defended Ms Liu in parliament and said she had clarified her support for the government’s stance on the South China Sea.

He then denied she should be held to the same standard as Mr Dastyari, as the former Labor senator had uttered pro-China comments after directly benefiting from Chinese money.

“Money changed hands between then senator Sam Dastyari (and Chinese donors) … Money changed hands …

“His position was bought … to off his legal expenses, and he was caught in his own web of corruption, Mr Speaker. He should have resigned, and he did.”

And how does that stack up against heading multiple CCP propagandist outfits for may years? Cripes.

The pressure on MS Liu will likely intensify in the days ahead but how much is an open question because Labor is just as split by CCP corruption with the NSW right sinking at ICAC, various grey beards gallivanting around defending China at every opportunity and the NSW leader representing another Chinese community. To wit, via The Australian:

Labor has set up a closed-door committee to examine Australia’s bilateral relationship with China, amid a split within the party over the security and economic ­challenges posed by Beijing.

The establishment of an eight-person caucus working group on China, to be led by senator Jenny McAllister, follows Labor’s decis­ion to join with the government to block a Senate inquiry into the key bilateral relationship.

On Tuesday, opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong reiterated her call for the government to allow China briefings for MPs by the Office of National­ Intelligence and other agencies.

She told a meeting of Australia’s ambassadors and high commissioner­s in Canberra that Australians were “understandably anxious” about the China relationship.

“It is reasonable and approp­riate for parliamentarians to want assurance that our national interest is being served,” she said.

But one Labor MP said the party was “trying to cover over that (it) has not proceeded with a Senate inquiry”.

In other words, how hard can the ALP afford to push?

Moreover, it is quite clear that the media is equally split and corrupted. LNP cheerleader, The Australian, has buried the story today throwing in behind the Government against the national interest.

The AFR has virtually refused to cover it. It’s major contribution today is from Jennifer Hewitt, who often flies to pro-CCP diplomatic functions on the purse of Fortescue Metals Group:

Just as Labor appreciates its own “gotcha” furore over Liu’s past membership of some Chinese government authorised groups in Australia – leading to insidious if nebulous claims of guilt by association.

This is clearly different to Dastyari’s egregious behaviour warning the same $100,000 Huang that his phone was probably tapped by government agencies, accepting money for personal expenses and defending China’s actions in the South China Sea.

…Yet a combination of forces, including China’s more aggressive behaviour under Xi Jinping, means much of the public debate is veering close to a more extreme outbreak of Sinophobia. This is overwhelming traditional boasting rights about how well Australia embraces Chinese immigrants, tourists and students in a country where nearly 1.5 million Australians are of Chinese heritage and with 650,000 of the population Chinese-born.

Playing the race card at this juncture is as atrocious as it is predictable. Liu lied outright about heading various CCP-aligned propaganda groups. She refuses to declare loyalty to basic Australian foreign policy principles. ASIO is clearly disturbed by her links. She is embroiled in shadowy donations scandals with dark figures. A former PM refused to be seen with her.

If questioning this is “sinophobia” then the moon is made of cheese.

So, what’s the wash up? A few points stand out:

  • Scott Morrison is about to be feted at a White House dinner. What is Donald Trump going to say and do? Threaten to cut Five Eyes access?
  • Liu has to go. But everybody is clearly paranoid that when/if she does the following by-election will drive a wedge so deep into the China fracture that it will become a gulf. Good, we need just such a major national break to excoriate these links.
  • If ScoMo doesn’t cut Liu then this melt down will irradiate his entire government. Liu may look vulnerable but she is actually in a position of immense power, as the LNP’s scramble to protect her shows. CCP influence could literally now be pulling ScoMo’s strings.

Most important is this. One of either Australia’s mass immigration economic model or its democracy is collapsing before our eyes. I still think that our democratic institutions will eventually prevail. But it is not a sure thing. There are already two CCP seats in the Australian parliament and their power is on display for all to see. A few more years of Chinese inflows, a few more seats, and Beijing owns the joint. Prudent risk management suggests that you should get a dual passport if you can.