US ambassador slams Chinese bribes

From Paul Kelly:

In an exclusive interview, the departing US ambassador to Australia, John Berry, said foreign ­donations were illegal in America, and the US had been “surprised” by Chinese money power in this country and wanted Australia to resolve the issue.

“It is an entirely different ­matter when the government of China is able to directly funnel funds to political candidates to ­advance their national interests in your national campaign,” Mr Berry told The Australian.

“That, to us, is of concern. We cannot conceive of a case where a foreign donation from any government, friend or foe, would be considered legitimate in terms of that democracy.”

This is a clear critique of Australia’s donation law. It signals the extent to which the US has been stung by a series of revelations about Chinese financial support of Australian parties and politicians, culminating in the forced resignation of NSW senator Sam Dastyari from the Labor frontbench.

It is obvious that US concerns extend beyond Senator Dastyari. The implication in Mr Berry’s ­remarks is concern about the widespread and systemic application of Chinese finance in our politics. In this sense, the warning from the ambassador is unprecedented.

Pretty much. Banning foreign donations is step one in managing our great power relationships.

Step two is to release a new white paper on Chinese engagement that declares Australia China’s loyal partner in developing its economy and will provide free access to raw materials (including agriculture) but will not allow access to strategic assets in the national interest. It should also reconfirm Australia’s commitment to rules based diplomacy and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Step three is to properly enforce foreign buying of real estate rules and to lower the immigration intake to historic norms while applying the Productivity Commission’s new recommendations on visas to ensure Chinese moral suasion over domestic wealth does not increase further.

Those three steps set up a manageable pathway between our two Great and Powerful friends.

Get on with it Do-nothing Malcolm and, while you’re at it, force Brian Wilson at FIRB to resign from the Carlyle Group.

David Llewellyn-Smith
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  1. Fully agree that corruption is pervading politics and needs to be crushed, especially so from foreign interests. However, the US calling Australia out on political corruption is the pot calling the kettle black. Their system is the most corrupt ‘democracy’ around. Instead of foreign influence, however, it is special domestic interest groups.

      • Isn’t it sad that Australia can’t get even corruption right. We’ve outsourced that one to China like the rest of the other things we used to do locally. ?

        On the other hand, I say the guy’s got a serious case of sour grapes: US missed on a lot of greasing cash ?

        The alternative being: “Come on Australia, you should’ve said you needed the money, we would’ve given it to you, you didn’t need to go and suck them d*cks for money”

    • There’s definitely corrupting influences in US politics. It’s just not as blatantly third-world as it is here in Australia.

  2. I think we need an economic crisis to wake everyone up in Australia – things have been too good for a very long time – it’s coming and it’s going to be nasty
    I’m short everything AUD – you’ll be right in the end handh

    • The problem is that any time we are near one everything gets thrown at it to prevent it from occurring. This includes the institutional blindness of regulators like the FIRB. Which has assisted the corruption that now seems to pervade so much Australia. If a downturn does occur it needs a truckload of Royal Commissions to accompany it. Otherwise there is very little hope.

      • “The Royal Commission Industry” – that right there has quite a ring to it. Hell, put a minister in charge of the new industry, for it will be hiring 2 million directly and 6 million in dependent side industries. ??

  3. Theres a big element of pot calling kettle black in that, but there is also a sighter of why Australia is unlikely to do that much about it. The US example shows us pretty clearly corruption per se (particularly in the form of domestic corruption) never really gets addressed until such point as the whole system is shaken – and even then how many bankers have done time since 2008?

    Maybe we will go down the road of kicking ‘foreign corruption’ around at a domestic politics level for a while, but how easy will it be for (for example) someone in China to hand over the readies to a Chinese Australian and get the cash over that way? (and of course that would all apply to Americans or Poms too).

    The message the average Chinese bribe payer would be noting is

    In the last decade we have stopped how many dollars coming into our housing market from offshore? (of that 25 Billion which came in last year are the regulatory agencies telling us that every last cent was untarnished by corruption – from one of the most corrupt nations on earth?)
    In the last decade what has been the bigger bribery issue – the Chinese directly paying bribes? Or the Australian financial system, the Australian property developer set, and the Australian education set? (all reliant on Chinese ‘consumers’ of their product, all at bubble levels, and all looking at painful adjustments if the Chinese funds are in any way curtailed)
    What are Australia’s alternatives to making that adjustment if the China funds are in some way turned off?
    How much propensity have Australian political classes (particularly Federal, but certainly also State, and even at local levels) demonstrated to be able to sell a message of hard economic adjustment?

    and from there any Chinese bribe payer would be similarly noting

    Where is Australia’s Anti Money Laundering legislation? (on the political radar or not?)
    Is Australia in the process of selling its corporate database or not? (and will this make it easier to conceal corporate payments?)
    Have Australian policymakers in any way (remotely) prepared a nation for making an economic adjustment or are they still blowing a bubble of which corruption benefits from China (but it could be anywhere, and we shouldnt assume US corporates would be any more inclined to have their activities on the record) are a key mainstay?
    How many illegal foreign owners of Australian real estate has FIRB picked up and what has happened to the ATO data match?

    One way or another that money will still be welcomed in by Turnbull and the Torynuffs (and Shorten and the ALParatchiks) and those offshore looking to fund people on their side in Australia will still find a thousand easy and straightforward ways of doing so – even if some of the more endearing methods (for the beneficiaries) get closed off in a bout of political theatre (which would be no doubt designed to ensure that the real milky wilkies just kept coming)

    Australia’s politicians have nailed this economy to the mast of a housing bubble moving inexorably towards the berg of economic destiny propelled and steered by the a FIRE lobby dependent on offshore borrowing (and not particularly choosy where the money comes from). The media (massively in debt and overtly dependent on offshore borrowings though the FIRE lobby) has slapped wads of infotainment and pap in our ears, and will no doubt keep playing no matter what, and those politicians on the deck will be overboard in the last remaining lifeboats (corporate boards/sinecures) well before the public is allowed out of steerage. And everyone on board should get used to Chinese sausage – in any orifice which will take it.

    Like seriously – we have the head of FIRB casually announce he is moonlighting for Carlyle Group. Any bribepayer anywhere would be thinking at worst it is simply a matter of paying a margin to the right intermediary.

    • Got your juices flowing today Gunna

      You’re sadly right. This gluttony can’t be sated. The fuckers in charge of the gravy train have no intention of getting off.

      Les Miserables anyone?

    • Yep. My thinking is that step 1 isn’t to ban foreign donations/bribes, it is to create competitive tension between US and China, to prompt US into also paying bribes. Bigger ones than the Chinese!

      If we play this right, we could get some very nice bribes along the way to becoming another Korea!

  4. Spot on Peachy, and it’s not just the clowns in parliament, it’s the mainstream media and leading journos and many outspoken academics that have been bought out. What matters in this totally corrupt country does not happen in public except by accident, and what matters now is a truly historic tug of war between China and the USA for control of this now dumbed down colony. Look at the strategic position of OZ between two oceans and as a base on the southern flank of SE Asia, and you can understand its importance. I don’t get it why people read or watch the mainstream news, it’s almost pure propaganda and irrelevant..

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      Yes, such a shame Mr Kelly didn’t think to ask John Berry what he thought of the FIRBs Brian Wilson’s advisory roll for the Carlyle group and does he see any similarities with that kind of thing and expanding Chinese soft power.

      Questions like that probably wouldn’t win you many “exclusive” interviews in the future.

  5. Here you go the ghost in the machine as it were…..

    “Query whether there are any working stiffs at either FBI or DoJ (or any of the other “regulatory agencies”) that retain, or even had on appointment date, the skills and inclination to do any of the minimal sh!t that we mopes think of as “enforcing the law.”

    The elites have been stuffing the ballot box, and loading up the bureaucracies with fawning weaklings, for decades now. It’s a disease process that only has a very limited prognosis.

    And yes, there are probably still a few people with backbone enough to do some enforcement, if the political bosses give the ok. But I know as a former EPA enforcement attorney, who worked there through the Reagan Revolution, how it works — move in the new bosses who then hold those briefings and meetings to inject the fear of God in the mopes, change the “priorities,” de-fund and de-populate the uncomfortably active enforcement programs, re-write all the enforcement manuals and policies and guidance documents, get the DoJ to raise the bar on the evidentiary minimums to “beyond reasonable doubt and don’t bother us with these kinds of cases any more…” With the winner-take-all-ers comfortably knowing that the vast majority prefer continued employment and possible future opportunities to “doing the people’s business…” – JTMcPhee

    As far as foreign bribes go wrt America one only has to look at the kerfuffle during Bill Clinton’s term –

    “The 1996 United States campaign finance controversy was an alleged effort by the People’s Republic of China to influence domestic American politics prior to and during the Clinton administration and also involved the fund-raising practices of the administration itself.

    While questions regarding the U.S. Democratic Party’s fund-raising activities first arose over a Los Angeles Times article published on September 21, 1996,[1] China’s alleged role in the affair first gained public attention when Bob Woodward and Brian Duffy of The Washington Post published a story stating that a United States Department of Justice investigation into the fund-raising activities had uncovered evidence that agents of China sought to direct contributions from foreign sources to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) before the 1996 presidential campaign. The journalists wrote that intelligence information had shown the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. was used for coordinating contributions to the DNC[2] in violation of United States law forbidding non-American citizens or non-permanent residents from giving monetary donations to United States politicians and political parties. A Republican investigator of the controversy stated the Chinese plan targeted both presidential and congressional United States elections, while Democratic Senators said the evidence showed the Chinese targeted only congressional elections. The Chinese government denied all accusations. – wiki

    Disheveled Marsupial… for a good time search Bill Clinton’s china money and see the results past and present…

  6. This would be a good chance for Do Nothing Malcolm to get some runs on the board and show that he’s not just about back slapping his big business mates.

  7. There’s an interesting aspect of “corruption” that’s rarely talked about, so naturally I’ll go there
    The Corrupting companies/ countries are ALWAYS the aspirant companies/countries. The incumbent has no need to corrupt public officials and therefore always tries to outlaw corruption.
    Think about IBM back in its heyday…as the saving goes “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” embedded in that saying is the counter-factual message that you’re putting your career on the line by not buying IBM. IBM played that card to the max, in the end aspirant PC clone companies had to pry open the doors to lucrative governments and big business contracts by rewarding those individuals that put their careers on the line. The process of delivering these rewards is what we call corruption and trust me many a person sitting in an influential position received some form of benefits before the IBM stranglehold was broken.

    At a country level the influence game is no different, the Incumbent has a clear advantage and the Aspirant has an obvious need to reward individuals for the risks they’re taking.
    I suspect that’s the truth behind this message from the departing US ambassador.

    • Very interesting point. Though I would argue that the incumbent often performs a different form of corruption in their long-running cosiness — a form of corruption that is much less naked than straight bribes of course…

    • China-Bob…

      Having pointed out on numinous occasions the divergence between wages and productivity in the mid 70s I have another perspective. The entire perspective wrt the business sector and society at large had a fundamental shift, where once distribution of productivity and allocation of profits back into the company were viewed as best practices [long term view] vs running company’s for the enrichment of its executives, boardroom, and majority share – bond holders in a game of if you don’t now… someone else will….

      Its curious how a great many things all revolve around this period and the resultant flow on effects to society at large.

      As such its quite evident that this cultural shift did not just occur out of random happen stance, but by direct action, by individuals and groups which both had the money and the power to influence its desired outcome over a period of time until it became the dominant perspective by which everyone had to operate or perish. Worst of all is how this shaped even everyday people to view not just themselves, but everyone else, as the enviroment dictates that perspective.

      Disheveled Marsupial…. it seems the results are in and its not looking good down the track… especially with head winds like AGW and the diverse flow on effects…

      • Hey Skip, not sure my take exactly matches yours but here goes.
        I agree that the 70’s marks a point of clear divergence in the wages vs Exec salary outcome however wrt to this trend I’d say that correlation is not causation.
        Think about the great manufacturing companies of the North Eastern region ( GE, AT&T, IBM, Eastman…Westinghouse, United Technologies… the list goes on and on)
        All of these companies became the corner stone of employment in their own local, In cities like Burlington Vt everyone was somehow a direct or indirect employee of IBM, same goes for GE wrt large parts of the Hudson valley, similar story wrt Eastman Kodak in Rochester NY.
        These towns grew because of the regional dominance of their companies, the companies in turn plowed countless millions into the region through parks, education, superior jobs, health care etc. a truly self reinforcing social and economic feedback loop was created.
        What happened in the 70’s was the realization that the company was not as dependent on the region as the region was on the company. Globalization and specialization were necessary to ensure continued growth and this required that management forget their regional focus and in place adopt a global focus. The rewards of this global focus were disproportionately delivered to higher level Managerial positions (as in those individuals that could make the change happen)…the rest is history, wage arbitrage and Tax jurisdiction shopping shaped what was to follow…again the rewards flowed into the pockets of those individuals that could create these outcomes.

      • I’ll be short China-Bob…. the Powell memo does not support your views…

        Lets add ALEC to that list…

    • An interesting perspective but I think its less complicated than that. Any major power is undermined by corruption. Whether its corporate or political. Corruption means your orders/directives are essentially skewed in unpredictable ways while being implemented by the underlings, your secrets are spilt and its impossible to cost-effectively do anything because there is a range of hidden taxes/ticket clipping going on through the whole chain of your logistics.

      I think people in power love being able to bribe/sway things their way, but hate it when their own powerbase is unreliable due to underlings taking bribes. And the bigger/more influential you are, the more people you’ll attract who want to take bribes, because who bribes a nobody?

  8. What might get us out of the total mess that we are in right now would be the scrapping of the the representative democratic process here in Australia at all 3 levels of government. A move to a form of direct democracy, similar to that practiced by the Swiss, might offer us members of the lumpentariat a little more control of our destiny, and cut out some of the corruption. A petition to Federal Parliament sponsored by Getup! demanding that this idea be throughly explored might be the way to start the ball rolling, as I note that their recent petition to block the privatisation of AISC has attracted over 60000 signatories so far.