Chinese political donations raise questions
Chinese companies are the biggest corporate donors to Australia's major political parties. Courtesy ABC News 24.
All the donors have links to the Chinese government, and the vast bulk of the money was given by companies with no apparent business interests in WA. Ms Bishop, the leading federal member of the party in that state, has singled out each of the three key donors for praise.
Several of the donations have been obscured by the channelling of funds via executives or related companies, or by the donors' failure to disclose them to the Australian Electoral Commission, in apparent breach of Commonwealth law.
A spokesman for the AEC acknowledged a loophole in Australia's disclosure laws, saying: "While the commission can seek compliance, overseas donors cannot be compelled to comply with Australian law when they are not in Australia".
The revelations raise further questions about foreign donations linked to ministers with trade and diplomatic responsibilities. Coming amid calls for a ban on foreign money flowing into Australian politics, they will heighten anxiety about the influence of foreign governments in Australian politics and business.
These concerns are mirrored in the United States, where Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has pledged to ban foreign donations to her fundraising entity, the Clinton Foundation. On Tuesday, emails released under freedom-of-information laws revealed that foreign donors were given special access during Ms Clinton's stint as Secretary of State..
Ms Bishop did not respond to questions about how she handled potential conflicts between her responsibilities as a party fundraiser and minister. A spokesperson said that donations to the WA branch were "a matter for the party".
Chau Chak Wing
In 2014-15, billionaire Chau Chak Wing's Hong Kong Kingson Investment Ltd gave $200,000 to the WA Liberal Party. The donation is listed on the party's disclosure to the AEC, but the company made no disclosure.
The controversial tycoon has given millions to Liberal, National and Labor parties over several decades. His Kingold conglomerate has expanded from property development to hospitality, education, finance, health, media and culture that extends "from Guangzhou, Beijing and Hong Kong to Sydney and Brisbane in Australia," according to its website. No business interests in WA are listed.
Among his local interests is the Chinese-language publication Australia New Express Daily, which is reportedly backed by the Chinese government. In 2008, the newspaper helped urgently import1000 Chinese flags for pro-China student groups during the Canberra leg of the 2008 Beijing Olympics torch relay to "dye Australia red" and drown out pro-Tibet protests.
Dr Chau's representatives in Australia declined to comment.
In February 2015, Ms Bishop launched the Chau Chak Wing building at the University of Technology, Sydney, partly funded by a $25 million gift from the tycoon. Ms Bishop paid tribute to Dr Chau, praising his philanthropic "investment" and linking it to the recently-signed Chinese Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA).
The Foreign Minister also appeared alongside Dr Chau on September 16, 2015 to launch a multimedia studio sponsored by Kingold at the Australian War Memorial, where former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson is director.
In 2004 and 2005, Dr Chau partially funded trips to China for then future prime minister (and foreign minister) Kevin Rudd, future foreign minister Stephen Smith and future treasurer Wayne Swan. John Howard, Bob Hawke, Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan have all been guests at Chau's estate, north of Guangzhou in China, which includes a 6000 square metre museum and a 27-hole golf course.
This week Mr Swan called for tighter controls on foreign donations warning they could be "skewing" political decision-making.
Meanwhile in 2013-14, Chinese-Australian conglomerate the Yuhu Group gave $280,000 to the WA Liberal division. According to Yuhu's disclosures to the AEC, $230,000 was donated over three days in August 2013, the last sum coming just a week before the federal election.
Company secretary of a Yuhu subsidiary, Anna Wu Meijuan, gave a further $50,000 in April 2014, making a separate disclosure. Her link to the Yuhu Group was obscured by the use of a personal email address.
Yuhu has interests in property development, agriculture and infrastructure, but no WA investments. However, its chairman, Huang Xiangmo, is president of a pro-Beijing lobby group whose activities include lobbying against independence movements in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet.
During the 2013 federal election campaign, Mr Huang reportedly attended a fundraiser with Tony Abbott and Ms Bishop. In May 2014, Ms Bishop singled him out for praise at the launch of the pro-Beijing Australia China Relations Institute at UTS. The Yuhu Group is a generous donor to both sides of politics.
On August 23, Mr Huang complained to Chinese newspaper Global Times about recent ABC reporting on political donations.
"To link China or Chinese-related donations to the Chinese government is not only ridiculous, but smacks of racial discrimination," he said.
Foreign Ministers deal with foreign countries so as to advance Australia's interests.
When a foreign minister solicits, receives, retains or acknowledges (other than by way of return post) a donation from interests associated with China, her political fortunes might rise with the money and so might the fortunes of her party.
But Australian cannot be better for that. It's a crying shame that Australia loses out because of Julie Bishop's selfishness.
EXHIBIT TWO - hard to imagine Henry Kissinger doing this.
The Hollywood prize up for grabs at Press Gallery Mid-Winter Ball
JULIE “Hollywood” Bishop has again established she has the best contact book in Australian politics.
Not only does it hold the names and private numbers of the heads of government she deals with as Foreign Minister, she knows how to reach those at the top of the entertainment industry.
One of them is acclaimed producer/director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X-Men), who soon will take a walk-on role in efforts for Australian charities.
Ms Bishop is among senior political figures generously donating their contacts — and themselves — to raise money for charities through the Press Gallery Mid-Winter Ball to be held next Wednesday.
Over its 16 years the ball has raised $3.143 million for good causes, and the aim in 2016 is to push that to a total of $3.5 million.
Much of the donations will comes from an eBay auction over the coming week.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is offering a personal, behind-the-scenes tour of Parliament House, ending with tea in the Prime Minister’s office.
With this comes a tour of the National Gallery with director Gerard Vaughan. The final element will be a visit to the secret parts of the National War Memorial guided by director Brendan Nelson.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is offering the chance to go on his morning run, followed by breakfast with him and his deputy Tanya Plibersek.
The Nationals Senate leader Fiona Nash will be available for a dinner in Canberra or regional NSW, her base. And senior gallery figures including Channel 7’s Mark Riley, News Corp health writer Sue Dunlevy and the Financial Review’s Laura Tingle will host a dinner at the National Press Club.
All of them tempting, but it is the Ms Bishop item which will grab attention.
The Foreign Minister, in conjunction with Qantas, has arranged for two people to be flown to Los Angeles for VIP seats at the G’day USA Gala.
The visit will include an intimate dinner hosted by chef Curtis Stone at his Los Angeles restaurant Gwen with Brett Ratner and Hollywood stars.
The VIP G’Day USA Gala will be held in the Dolby Ballroom, home of the Oscars, with menu by Neil Perry and Wolfgang Puck.
This tops her item last year of a trip to New York for dinner at Robert De Niro’s restaurant with Hugh Jackman.
Recipients of the money raised will be Orange Sky Laundry; the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation; Look Good Feel Better; and The Big Issuer.
Details of the 2016 Mid-Winter Ball eBay auction, including separate Qantas flights, are available here.