A parliamentary attack on Labor over foreign donations from Chinese supporters backfired badly on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Wednesday when the opposition returned fire with questions about an entity called the “Julie Bishop Glorious Foundation”, set up by a wealthy Chinese supporter.
The issue of foreign donations to political parties has been brewing throughout the parliamentary sitting fortnight, following revelations from a joint investigation by Fairfax Media and the ABC about Chinese attempts to influence Australian politics.
The questions on Wednesday prompted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to reiterate that the government would introduce legislation in the spring sitting to outlaw foreign donations to both political parties and other groups including Get Up and trade unions.
The investigation revealed that Labor Senator Sam Dastyari had given a press conference for the Chinese media only last year rebutting the then Labor defence spokesman’s stance on contested islands in the South China Sea, the day after a Chinese donor had cancelled a massive donation to the Labor Party.
After attacking Senator Dastyari on Tuesday, Ms Bishop raised questions about the standards set by Labor Leader Bill Shorten, noting that he had appointed Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon, who had quit as defence minister in the Rudd government after weeks of questions over his link to a Chinese supporter, Helen Liu.
The Foreign Minister said Mr Fitzgibbon’s benefactor had links to a foreign intelligence service, and noted the Department of Defence had “grave concerns” about the matter.
The fact that Mr Shorten had not asked for a security briefing on the matter showed he was personally compromised, she said.
However, Labor MP Matt Keogh then rose to ask Ms Bishop about her own Chinese links saying Chinese mining magnate Sally Zou, who is also a large financial supporter of Port Adelaide Football Club, had set up an entity called the “Julie Bishop Glorious Foundation” to help the deputy Liberal leader
A furious Ms Bishop denied any knowledge of the foundation until she had been asked questions about it by the media last week.
“At no time have I ever compromised government policy in relation to foreign affairs,” she said.
While Labor continued its attack, the government focused on the opposition’s record on foreign donations.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Parliament Senator Dastyari “solicited money from a foreign donor”.
“He accepted it. It was given to him. Not because he was a nice guy, not because he was hard up but because he was a Senator,” Mr Turnbull said.
“He got that privileged payment. He used his position to get that payment. And then he switched the policy, the long-standing policy of the Labor Party on a vitally important issue of national security. And for all of that, he was in the sin bin for six months. The Leader of the Opposition has a long way to go before anyone will take him seriously on foreign donations.”
by Laura Tingle