Sunday, July 29, 2012

Who is bankrolling the Australian Labor Party?

I just came across this disturbing piece originally published in the Winter 2009 edition of The Independent Australian:


Labor's Chinese Mates - Big Donors
Now that Chinese government-owned enterprises are bidding to buy into Australian resource companies at rock-bottom prices, perhaps it’s time to note the Chinese connection in donations to the ALP. Last year,  the largest political donation to the ALP was made by China-based entrepreneur Stanley Ho, who gave the party $800,000. Ho’s fourth wife, Angela Leong, attempted to donate a further $500,000 but the Federal ALP returned the donation, according to the Australian Electoral Commission records. No reason was given.
The $800,000 from Ho was made up of $200,000 from him and $600,000 from Hungtat Worldwide of which he is chairman. The company owns the Palm Meadows golf course on the Gold Coast and is involved in several developments in Queensland. A spokesman for Hungtat said ‘The money comes from China….They have to use an Australian company to make the donations …as long as it is for the Labor Party we are happy to donate’ (The Australian Financial Review 3/2/09).
The NSW ALP also accepted a cheque for $400,000 from Stanley Ho but returned a further donation of $600,000 from Hungtat Worldwide. The State branch general secretary Matt Thistlethwaite claimed the donation was returned because the State ALP had sufficient funds to finance its expenditure at the time. This sounds barely plausible. A political party knocking back a huge donation? Perhaps there was a fear that Mr Ho’s generosity and that of his associated company would lead to a perception that he was buying shares in the party. However, the NSW ALP did accept some $1.4 million in donations from Mr Ho and his associates. 
Mr Anthony Chan, who is listed at the same Hong Kong address as Mr Ho, donated $100,000 to the NSW Labor Party. Mr Ho, who appears in Forbes magazine list of the 100 richest people in the world, was the highest bidder at a NSW ALP fund raiser in 2006, paying $48,000 for the opportunity to lunch with the State Premier Morris Iemma.  However, he didn’t bother to  show up to collect his prize. 
In 1986, Mr Ho was deemed ‘unsuitable’ to hold a casino licence in NSW when he was part of a consortium involved in a bid for a share of the gambling market. Instead of granting a second casino licence the NSW Government of Morris Iemma extended its exclusivity agreement with the Tabcorp owned Star City Casino at Darling Harbour. Hong Kong Kingston Investments were also happy to donate $281,000. 
Ian Tang, head of Beijing Aust China Technology, based in China paid for 16 visits by ALP politicians to China before the last federal election. Tang’s subsidiary company, Beijing Aust China Investment and Development Pty Ltd paid for Mr Rudd to visit China in 2006 with a side trip to USA, Britain and Sudan on the way. In the same year, Mr Rudd spoke at a ceremony in Beijing to unveil a $1.3 billion retail development. Tang paid for  Wayne Swan to travel to China and Hong Kong and for Tony Burke (then Shadow Minister for Immigration) to take multiple trips. On the day Tony Burke flew out of Sydney bound for Manila, Beijing and Hong Kong at Tang’s expense (8 days) Tang’s company made a $59,000 donation to the Australian Labor Party. Tang’s company made two more donations to the NSW State ALP the following month, in total $94,000. 
The NSW ALP is so anxious to remain on good terms with Chinese residents of Sydney that it has a full time liaison officer devoted to keeping in touch with them.  There are a number of inner urban seats - both State and Federal - in which Chinese Australians are concentrated (including Bennelong). Their votes can make the difference between the ALP holding the seats or losing them to the Coalition. 
Similarly the NSW ALP has maintained close links with Muslim community - particularly Lebanese - who are concentrated in several seats. They have provided the foot soldiers for branch-stacking but the community at large lacks the financial clout that the Chinese bring to the table. 
Is democracy really served by these deals between political parties and ethnic lobby groups? There is always a price to be paid by governments for this form of support. Immigration issues are prominent - relaxing rules in favour of individuals or groups, or changing regulations to admit more of a particular ethnic group while banging on about the wonders of multiculturalism. Without admitting of course that  multiculturalism has a become a tool for vote buying. 
The Chinese of course are involved in  other issues. When Chinese state-owned enterprises want to buy into Australian minerals producers or telecommunications providers they and the Chinese Embassy can always whip up support from the resident overseas Chinese community for their agenda. As the federal Opposition have found out, any doubts about the wisdom of Chinese takeovers or investments are countered with cries of ‘racism’, ‘jingoism’ and ‘fears of the old ‘yellow peril’. 
And who is first off the block with these allegations? Labor MPs and Ministers who have been the beneficiaries of free travel in China, courtesy of the Chinese lobby.


Just how compromised is the Australian Labor Party?


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