Businesses with Chinese connections gave Australia’s major parties more than $5.5 million between 2013 and 2015, making them easily the largest source of foreign-linked donations.
An ABC investigation of public declarations and company information shows some have strong ties with state organisations in China.
It helps explain why Australian defence and intelligence agencies are increasingly uneasy about the level of Chinese Government influence here.
There is no doubt that these donations come with expectations. There is no doubt that political parties know that donations will dry up if they have the ‘wrong’ policies.
And there is no doubt that Chinese donations appear to have helped smooth the way for Chinese investment, even when it jeopardised Australia’s security.
Remember the Port of Darwin lease? This is what the former Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb, had to say at the time:
“Every time there’s been another wave of foreign investment, the reaction has been resistance. People are not certain about what it all means. It’s human nature it’s fearful of change.
“I have to explain to investors about the context. This has happened before but as soon as people see what value this investment brings, they will get very comfortable.”
This is what the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull had to say:
“The port that is being leased is not being used by the military, it is a commercial port,” he said.
Actually, part of the lease was for a ‘Defence vessel facility’ that hundreds of naval ships use every year. It must be embarrassing being the PM of a nation and not knowing that its Top End naval facilities are being sold to the Chinese. Or maybe it’s not embarrassing if you just don’t care.
Anyway, Defence only has access to it now for the next 25 years while the lease runs until well into the next century. After 2040, it will be entirely up to the whim and fancy of the Chinese as to whether this access arrangement can be extended and the Royal Australian Navy can use the Port of Darwin. As the subsequent Senate inquiry noted:
Furthermore, it is not clear to the committee how the Australian Defence Force will retain access to the port beyond the maximum 25 year period specified in the Deed of License. Since the Port of Darwin was leased to Landbridge for a period of 99 years, this is a significant disparity.
Yet while there were no security concerns at all about selling off the Port of Darwin, all of sudden the Liberal government has blocked the sale of Ausgrid. Reason: security concerns.
What’s changed? Well, as Labor’s Anthony Albanese pointed out, Pauline Hanson has been elected. Now everyone’s scrambling for cover.
And not a moment to soon either. For a start, it’s time that Labor and the Liberals gave up their cosy arrangement to accept multi-million dollar political donations from Chinese interests and started putting Australian first again.