Deary me, Simon Benson:
Anthony Albanese’s tactical attack on Liberal MP Gladys Liu is at risk of backfiring horribly.
Scott Morrison’s strident press conference today in her defence would have been all over WeChat in minutes. And the Chinese community would have heard only one thing. The Labor Party is racist.
The clumsy imputation that she is an agent of China has exposed the Labor leader to a withering response from the Government.
It has cast a smear over 1.2 million Chinese Australians while undermining the principles that Labor claims to represent.
So, Labor can’t hold the Government to account for ignoring ASIO warnings about Gladys Liu and foreign influence because a dodgy online portal edited in Beijing (that is, foreign influence) will cost it at the ballot box? That’s is treason dressed up as good politics.
Andrew Bolt piled in:
Sky News host Andrew Bolt has unleashed a stunning attack on Prime Minister Scott Morrison for playing the “race card” in defending under-fire Liberal MP Gladys Liu.
“The way that the Prime Minister played that race card five times this morning, well I can only say the Chinese regime should be sending him a thank you card,” Bolt said in his opening monologue on Thursday.
“This slur against Labor and others was particularly disgusting.”
…Bolt said he couldn’t “believe what the Prime Minister did today — from someone of the far left, yes, but this Liberal Prime Minister today actually played the race card”.
“What a dishonest tactic,” he said.
“It is dishonest because no one is criticising Gladys Liu just for being Chinese. No one. They are criticising her and asking her tough questions about whether she’s been too close to the Communist regime of China. They’re wondering why she served its propaganda arm. They’re asking why she didn’t tell the truth about that.”
…On Sky News, Bolt asked the PM whether ASIO was also “racist” for warning Mr Turnbull off the meeting last year, or if Labor was racist for asking why Ms Liu “falsely denied on this show to having served on two Chinese organisations that are now part of China’s official propaganda arm”.
“Is it truly racist to ask why Liu is so reluctant to criticise China, given how close she’s been to China’s propaganda arm? What rubbish,” he said.
“This is Scott Morrison using the race card to protect Liu from the questions and criticisms she would get even if she was as non-Chinese as say, Sam Dastyari, who was actually forced to resign as a Labor Senator for himself getting too close to the Chinese regime.”
Bolt went on to say that the “final insult” from the PM was to suggest all 1.2 million Chinese Australians supported the Communist regime.
…“What an insult that is to the democracy activists who fled here from the Tiananmen Square massacre,” he said.
…“Extraordinary! Are the dictators in Beijing now writing Morrison’s lines?
In other words, The Australian or ScoMo or both are now in bed with Beijing to defend the LNP majority in Australia. What an ANZAC would make of that I leave to you. You can get hint from this.
Meanwhile, at Domain, Professor Salvatore Babones mounts a more defensible defense:
…look at the problems facing Gladys Liu. A native of Hong Kong and Australian citizen since 1992, she has become embroiled in controversy over her association with organisations such as the China Overseas Exchange Association and the Australia Jiangmen General Commercial Association, of which she was apparently once the honorary president.
Jiangmen is a large (population 4.5 million) but relatively unimportant Chinese city in the hinterland of Hong Kong, and its commercial association in Australia is likely little more than a small business council. The China Overseas Exchange Association arranges cultural tours for non-Chinese families who have adopted Chinese students. These are small-potatoes organisations, not communist fifth columns.
…Call it unfair, call it a beat-up, call it a witch-hunt. But don’t call it racist. If Liu had Russian or (worse) Trumpian connections, the story would be the same. Racism is real, but the “R” word is thrown around much more casually than it should be, especially when it comes to politics.
The AFR chimes in with a disgraceful spin job but even it can’t hide the issues:
Given she was born in Hong Kong, 33 years before the territory was handed back to Beijing, it was noteworthy she identified as “Chinese-born”. But potentially more interesting was another biographical morsel detailed in her maiden speech.
…The former fishing village in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong is famous for its entrepreneurs and its “tight friendship networks”, wrote John Garnaut, the former journalist and foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
In Australia, Chaozhou’s most famous native is the controversial political donor Chau Chak Wing, who has given generously to both sides of politics…Another generous donor who hails from the same region is Huang Xiangmo…
These are the wrong questions. The right ones are how did a singularly charisma free and unimpressive individual become such a rich conduit of cash for the LNP in Victoria? Like Ernest Wong in NSW, if it wasn’t talent then what was it? Why did ASIO warn the Government that Liu is compromised? Why is the Herald Sun exposing more of that shadowy cash pipe today?
Embattled Liberal MP Gladys Liu has failed to declare a $39,675 donation to the Liberal Party’s Victorian division three years ago.
The omission, which is a breach of disclosure laws, follows an earlier failure to declare a $25,000 donation for almost three years.
The Herald Sun can reveal Ms Liu, renowned in party circles for her fundraising efforts, never filed a return to the Australian Electoral Commission for the $39,675 donation made in 2015-16.
…The Herald Sun can now reveal Ms Liu belonged to yet another Communist Party-linked organisation which helped lead a pro-Beijing rally on the streets of Melbourne about the South China Sea in 2016.
The Hong Kong-born MP has been a delegate of the Federation of Chinese Associations in Victoria, which describes itself as protecting “the Ancestral Nation’s dignity and interests” and striking back against “anti-China groups and behaviours”.
Chinese interference expert Professor Clive Hamilton said the group was a “very suspect organisation and has been very active in (Chinese Community Party) influence work in Melbourne”
Why did Liu lie about all of it in the interview with Andrew Bolt and, revealed today by the ABC, on her pre-selection form?
Besieged Liberal MP Gladys Liu did not disclose her membership of organisations linked to the Chinese Government’s foreign interference operations when she ran for preselection for the federal seat she now holds.
The ABC has obtained the form Ms Liu submitted during the preselection process for the seat of Chisholm, which she won for the Liberal Party at the last federal election.
All preselection candidates are obliged to fill in a section titled General and Community Activities, where they are supposed to list all organisations of which they are or have been a member or active supporter.
Ms Liu listed 17 different organisations, including the Box Hill Chess Club, the Australian Dancing Society and the Rotary Club of Melbourne. She also made reference to having been an honorary president or adviser to “many community organisations”.
She did not, however, declare her council membership of two chapters of an organisation called the China Overseas Exchange Association, which the ABC this week reported were part of the Chinese Government’s efforts to spread influence overseas.
The ABC has previously reported that Ms Liu was an honorary chair of two other organisations linked to the Chinese Government’s United Front Work propaganda and foreign influence activities — the World Trade United Foundation and the United Chinese Commerce Association of Australia.
In her application for endorsement, Ms Liu did not declare her membership of these two organisations either.
Ms Liu released a statement this week in response to the growing furore over her ties to a number of Chinese Government-linked organisations, in which she admitted to having been a member of one chapter of the Chinese Overseas Exchange Association, the United Chinese Commerce Association of Australia and Jiangmen General Commercial Association.
She did not disclose membership of the latter on her preselection application.
As the endorsement application is an internal Liberal Party document, it is unclear whether candidates are obliged to disclose membership of foreign organisations, but Ms Liu disclosed previous membership of some Hong Kong-based community organisations.
In the application, Ms Liu also claims to have raised more than $1 million for the Liberal Party by organising functions or bringing guests to fundraising dinners.
At a function in October 2015 she supplied guests for five VIP tables at a total cost of $50,000. Those guests then bid for auction items, which Ms Liu said helped the dinner exceed its estimated revenue by $400,000.
At an April 2016 federal election dinner, Ms Liu said she supplied 10 VIP tables that raked in $100,000 for the Liberal Party and “introduced high-value business and community leaders”.
“The Chinese community naturally shares many of the values of the Liberal Party, including an affinity for hard work, self-reliance and initiative, achievement in business and education, family values and respect for the rules of society,” Ms Liu wrote in her accompanying statement.
“But converting these natural values into support for the Liberal Party requires constant, active engagement. The Liberal Party in Victoria currently does not have an MP of Chinese background who can champion it at either federal or state level. If I were to become the first, it could enhance the Party’s support in that community across our state.”
Ms Liu says her name may have been added to records without her knowledge (courtesy Sky News: The Bolt Report).
The debate over Ms Liu’s ties to various organisations intensified this week after a bruising interview with Sky News commentator Andrew Bolt, in which Ms Liu claimed to be unaware of her membership of some organisations and struggled to answer other questions.
In the statement she subsequently released she said she had cut ties with “many organisations” and was in the process of auditing any organisations that may have added her as a member without her knowledge or consent.
Ms Liu did not respond to the ABC’s request for comment regarding her preselection form.
The questions about Ms Liu are these. Is a person that:
- ASIO has directly warned about,
- that is a channel for large sums of mysterious foreign money surrounded by fraud allegations amid a documented wider push to corrupt democratic process,
- that has lied repeatedly about both as well as her association with the same foreign dictatorship,
- that refuses to personally endorse Australian foreign policy,
a fit and proper person to represent Australians in the Parliament?
If the PM Morrison’s answer is “yes” then neither should he be there. It might even be taken out of his hands, via Crikey:
Section 44 disqualifies from parliament, in addition to foreign citizens, anyone who is “under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power”. Call it the foreign agent provision.
The High Court has been asked twice to invoke this law, and both times said no. In 1949, Gordon Anderson was elected in the Sydney seat of Kingsford-Smith. He was challenged on the grounds that, as a Roman Catholic, he owed an allegiance to a foreign power: the Vatican. True, the Vatican is a country; but the court was having none of that anti-Papist rubbish which had been made obsolete in 1829 when the United Kingdom finally allowed Catholics to sit in parliament. Freedom of religion, which the constitution separately guarantees, trumped any suggestion of divided loyalties by virtue of personal faith.
The question next came up in 1987. Elaine Nile (wife of Rev Fred) challenged Robert Wood, who had beaten her to a Senate seat representing NSW. Among her grounds was that Wood had, years earlier, been convicted of a criminal offence of “obstructing shipping”, and this action “against the vessels of a friendly nation” indicated that he had an allegiance to a (not identified) foreign power.
Entertaining argument, but the High Court is not for cheap thrills. The case was kicked out, although the judges did make one interesting observation: section 44, they said, will only operate on a person who has “formally or informally acknowledged” a foreign allegiance, and not withdrawn or revoked it.
What this would mean for Liu, if she found herself facing a section 44 challenge (which now can only be referred to the court by the House of Reps), is that her professed accidental membership of various Communist Party-front organisations would not likely be enough to meet the test of allegiance to a foreign power. There’d need to be a much smokier gun than has so far come to light.
The world of politics moves much faster than that. Needless to say, Morrison has catastrophically erred getting into bed with Beijing. He’d better jump out quick smart.