Via The Australian:
Malcolm Turnbull and top cabinet ministers have been slapped with a stinging rebuke from a former senior colleague over their plan to target “covert” agents who work for foreign powers, amid a political storm over Chinese influence in national affairs.
Former trade minister Andrew Robb, who masterminded John Howard’s 1996 election victory, warned the Prime Minister and other members of the national security committee of federal cabinet against fuelling a “smear” against his name that suggests “treasonous” activity because he advises a Chinese company.
The letter to the nation’s security ministers, obtained by The Australian, challenges the government’s claims and appears certain to escalate concerns about new criminal penalties on those who fail to sign up to a register of people working for foreign entities.
It also comes as the government last night moved to refer Labor senator Sam Dastyari to the privileges committee to investigate whether he has used his time in parliament to act as an agent for the Chinese government in return for taking money.
Attorney-General George Brandis was granted permission from the Senate President to refer Senator Dastyari to the committee, which has the power to apply jail terms of up to six months.
Mr Robb really sees himself as some kind of special flower. This is not about him, what he did and didn’t do at Landbridge. This is about the system itself. We can’t have folks with hyper-sensitive national security information running off to work for foreign powers and their firms the moment they feel like it, as Robb did, in clear breach of the Ministerial code of conduct.
Whether Robb has actually committed treason is an entirely irrelevant argument to the creation of the foreign agent register (though it is a secondary question of concern that deserves an investigation). The point today is that Robb’s behaviour has made it much easier for someone else coming after, who may or may not have the same scruples, to race off and divulge whatever the Hell they feel like.
Thus, in putting himself forward as some poor persecuted soul in order to undermine the progress of the register, he is committing precisely the same violation of the public trust that got him into hot water in the first place.
If Recidivist Robb gave a damn about his country, party and own reputation he would at this point declare his innocence but resign explicitly in the national interest from Landbridge.