While Pauline Hanson spreads her hatred of Muslims, Peter Dutton wages war on refugees, and Malcolm Turnbull berates bail and parole decisions, the real threat to our national security and sovereignty is ignored.
Three months before the 2013 election, Stuart Robert organised a dinner in his Parliament House office with Tony Abbott and Chinese business mogul Li Ruipeng at the request of his donor mate, Paul Marks, so Mr Li could meet senior Liberals including shadow resources minister Ian Macfarlane. Also present at the gathering was the then president of the Liberal National Party, Bruce McIver, a party powerbroker who was later appointed as a director of Australia Post.
That was the dinner where they were all gifted Rolex watches which they thought were “fake”.
In August 2014, Robert accompanied Paul Marks to Beijing where a mining deal between Australian company Nimrod Resources and Chinese state-controlled corporation China Minmetals was signed. Robert insists he was “on holidays” and there in a private capacity though it was apparent that Chinese officials at the event were under the impression that he was present as an Australian government minister.
Robert has also given evidence recently at the Queensland Crime and Corruption hearing into interference in the Gold Coast elections. He funded, through the Fadden Forum, two of the women who worked in his electoral office to run for council in what appeared to be an attempt to oust Peter Young who tends to vote against development applications that threaten the environment.
Robert’s employee Felicity Stevenson was one of six candidates in the 2016 Gold Coast elections who hired former Tony Abbott staffer and developer lobbyist Simone Holzapfel on their campaigns.
Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane left politics and was immediately appointed chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council.
Former Trade Minister Andrew Robb, whose fundraising vehicle, the Bayside Forum, received a $50,000 donation from Chinese property developer Huang Xiangmo the day the Chinese Free Trade agreement was signed, took a job as consultant to yet another Chinese billionaire, Ye Cheng, the day before the 2016 election was held.
Mr Cheng’s company, Landbridge Group, was embroiled in controversy when it was awarded a 99-year lease over the port of Darwin.
The political influence being exerted by these businessmen was apparent when Senator Sam Dastyari appeared with Mr Huang at a press conference exclusively for Chinese media, where he echoed Beijing’s line on the disputed waters in the South China Sea.
In April 2016, Scott Morrison rejected a bid by Dakang Australia Holdings to buy the Kidman cattle empire, saying its planned purchase was contrary to the national interest but, by December, he had approved the sale to Gina Rinehart in partnership with Shanghai CRED.
Kidman & Co controls 100,000 square kilometres of pastoral leases – about 1.3 per cent of Australia’s total land area and 2.5 per cent of the country’s agricultural land but it doesn’t end there. Shanghai CRED finalised a deal in October for around $2 million to buy several properties in Western Australia’s Goldfields region owned by WA cattle identity Jack Burton, the Melita, Jeedamya and Kookynie stations. It has also reportedly purchased other stations in the Goldfields region and recently snapped up Yakka Munga and Mount Elizabeth stations in the Kimberley.
A new report from Sydney University and accounting firm KPMG found a record 103 deals were signed between Chinese and Australian companies in 2016 with investment up 12 per cent from 2015 to $15.4 billion last year.
Australia is the second biggest recipient of Chinese investment globally behind the US, with $US90 billion in investment since 2007.
Investment in infrastructure rose to a record $4.34 billion, with China’s sovereign wealth fund taking stakes in transport firm Asciano, and the Port of Melbourne.
There was also continued investment in healthcare with China Resources Holdings investing $383 million in radiation, oncology, and cardiology services provider Genesis Care.
Chinese Government-owned State Grid Corporate and Hong Kong-listed Cheung Kong Infrastructure — the two companies whose bid for NSW electricity distributor Ausgrid were blocked by Treasurer Scott Morrison — already own significant shares in the privatised state power distributors.
The government insists we need foreign investment to create jobs but the Chinese aren’t starting new businesses – we are selling them the farm, the house and throwing in the furniture and car.
Despite concerns raised by our intelligence agencies about political donations from Chinese businessmen with links to the government and about money-laundering by Special Investment Visa holders from China, our politicians continue to provide special access in return for money.
As China expands its ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, the government would do well to read the briefing advice from its own department.
On the economic front, China has been criticised for using its massive financial assets to dominate smaller economies through long-term control of infrastructure, natural resources and associated land assets which can result in China exerting some control over local markets, labour and export policies.
It has been repeatedly noted in China that OBOR is also intended as a regional security mechanism, and the future role of the People’s Liberation Army in protecting China’s OBOR facilities abroad has been widely discussed.
Broader concerns relate to the longer-term aims of China, with the possibility that the OBOR agenda is aimed at creating a Eurasia-wide, China-led bloc to counter the US. At the June 2016 Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, Professor Xiang Lanxin, director of the Centre of One Belt and One Road Studies at the China National Institute for SCO International Exchange and Judicial Cooperation, spoke of OBOR as being an avenue to a ‘post-Westphalian world’. As such, some see this initiative as a profound challenge to the current global political and economic status quo.
As Australia becomes increasingly tied economically with China, there is a need to maintain a close watch on the progress of the OBOR initiative globally. Australia needs to adopt a more economically and strategically prudent attitude in determining how the Australia-China economic relationship is to further develop.
Instead, our politicians, like the Native Americans who gave Manhatten away, seem to have fallen for the shiny trinkets of political donations, Rolex watches and a high-paying job when you leave parliament.