A $200,000 donation to the WA Liberal Party from a billionaire property developer with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party has raised questions, WA Deputy Premier Roger Cook says.
Dr Chau Chak Wing’s company Kingold Group donated the sum to the WA branch of the Liberal Party in 2015/16.
Dr Chau, who is an Australian citizen, also made donations to the Labor Party federally.
Kingold is headquartered in Guangzhou, in southern China, and develops projects including international trade centres, commercial buildings, hotels, office and residential buildings.
A joint investigation by the ABC and Fairfax revealed earlier this week, that Dr Chau’s links to the Chinese Government were referenced in a briefing by ASIO chief Duncan Lewis in 2015.
In secret meetings with senior federal administrative officials in the major parties, Mr Lewis warned of the risks associated with accepting foreign-linked donations.
The agency also reportedly briefed senior federal politicians including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, his predecessor Tony Abbott, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
Mr Cook on Saturday said it was important for all political parties to stick to the absolute spirit and letter of electoral laws.
“A $200,000 donation to a state branch of a political party is a hefty sum, and so you would have to ask questions in relation to the nature of that donation,” he said.
“I hope what political parties are making sure is that while they acknowledge and accept political donations are a reality of our modern democratic system, and one that we rely on, that that in no way impacts upon the policies of the parties and it certainly does not impact in any way in terms of good government decisions when those parties are in Government.”
WA Liberal Party director Andrew Cox said in a statement the party always conducted its fundraising in an ethical manner and fully adhered to state and federal electoral laws.
He said the Labor Party should tell the WA public how much the union movement donated to it, and what “political favours” were being provided in return.
Businessman ‘completely rejects’ acting for China
The ABC was unable to reach Dr Chau for comment.
However he told The Australian newspaper on Friday that the media reports had caused him great distress.
“At no time have I sought to, or see any reason to, use an elaborate corporate structure to mask a donation to a political party,” he said.
“Further, I have never sought or received any personal or commercial benefit in connection to a political donation.
“The most distressing allegation in recent days is that I am somehow acting as a conduit for information for the Chinese Communist Party, which risks jeopardising Australia’s sovereignty.
“For clarity, I am not and have never been a member of the Chinese Communist Party, and I completely reject any suggestion I have acted in any way on behalf of, or under instruction from, that entity.”
Dr Chau is a member of a provincial-level People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and also owns a newspaper in China. The press in China are closely monitored and influenced by the central government.
Dr Chau also made donations to the federal Liberal Party of $560,000 in 2016, and $100,000 to the NSW branch.
He donated $200,000 to Labor federally.
Dr Chau has made donations to non-political causes in Australia, most notably $20 million for the construction of a business school at the University of Technology, named the “Chau Chak Wing building”.
According to Kingold’s website, Dr Chau hosted and attended events during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s recent visit to Australia.
Push for overseas donation reform
Notre Dame Politics and International Relations Associate Professor Martin Drum said foreign donations to political parties were banned by many Western countries but not on a state or federal level in Western Australia.
“When we don’t know the structure that foreign entities operate under, their ownership structure, we don’t understand the relationships they have with other overseas entities such as foreign governments, then there’s extra cause for concern,” he said.
He said under current rules entities could also make donations up to $13,200 to each political party in each state, and the federal party, without having to declare it publicly.
By Rebecca Trigger