SENATE SPEECH – We need an inquiry into Communist Chinese influence – 04/12/19

SENATE SPEECH – We need an inquiry into Communist Chinese influence – 04/12/19


I rise to commend the motion to the chamber.
It’s about time the people in this place woke up to China’s attempts to infiltrate our economy
and our democracy. I can tell you that the other 25 million Australians out there have.
Both sides of politics need to take a good, hard look at themselves and make sure they’re
acting in our national interest. Quite obviously, over China, they are not.
To be really clear to the Australian-Chinese community: I’m not talking about you. I’ve
made that very clear in the past. Chinese-Australians have been here since the goldrush, and their
place in and contribution to Australian life is profound. I’m sure they join all Australians
who are watching on in horror at the stories that have come out recently. It’s unbelievable
what is being tolerated from inside this chamber. First of all we hear about a wealthy Chinese
donor handing over an Aldi bag of cash to the New South Wales Labor Party. It contained
$100,000. They tried to hide where it came from by splitting up the money and making
it look like it came from a bunch of small donors. Does anyone really believe that money
was handed over with no strings attached? Please! Does anyone really believe that it
was just a friendly way for a Chinese property developer to support our democracy? I don’t
think anyone believes it. You might believe it in here, you lot on this side and that
side, but I’ll tell you what: the rest of the country isn’t buying into it. Everyone
knows that the communist Chinese government uses money to influence our political processes.
Everyone knows that money opens doors and starts conversations, especially in the Australian
parliament. Everyone knows that these sorts of activities are undermining our national
interest. At least in New South Wales they got it right.
They picked it up. They have a strong anti-corruption commission that can proactively stamp out
this stuff, and they have some of the best donation laws in the country. This’s why New
South Wales regulators were able to smell a rat. It happened in other states too. The
same Chinese donor, who, by the way, was stripped of his permanent residency and had his bid
for citizenship rejected, donated—geez, this doesn’t surprise me and it won’t surprise
many Tasmanians—$30,000 to the Tasmanian Liberal Party. We’ve heard pretty much nothing
about it. It’s: ‘Nothing to see here,’ according to the Tas Libs. Incidentally, in case the
Tasmanian Liberals don’t know, he’s the same guy who was mates with Sam Dastyari, and Sam
himself told the New South Wales ICAC that he believed the powerful Chinese property
developer and major political donor may have been working to influence Australian politics.
I’ll take the ‘may’ out; I will call it: he was working to influence Australian politics.
The fact is that there are basically no protections from stopping this happening at a federal
level and not because there can’t be but because there’s no courage to make it happen. There’s
no enforcement of the rules and there’s no follow-up if things look off. The scale of
the problem is huge, and we’ve just been tinkering around the edges. The fact is that we’d never
pick that sort of thing up if it happened at a national branch.
Now we’ve heard that Chinese attempts to infiltrate our politics go even further. It keeps getting
better! They’re not just trying to influence politicians with money; they’re trying to
get elected to sit in this chamber. In the dark side and over the other side too—wherever
they can buy or get seats in the Australian parliament, they’re coming. This is really
something else, isn’t it? To you watching and listening out there, to the Australian
public, this is something else, isn’t it? It’s an absolute shocker to think that someone
who has links to a Chinese communist party could waltz in here on the back of a major
party ticket. It’s unbelievable. But the problem is it’s not unbelievable anymore. They’re
coming. It’s not just the Communist Party agents who will be privy to internal conversations
about policy priorities and the agendas of the major parties; it also gives them a chance
to look for weaknesses, to hear the gossip that goes around this place and potentially
use that to influence or even blackmail people. There are no security checks. There’s little
to stop it from happening. It’s absolutely beyond shocking.
We’re sitting ducks here. We’re leaving ourselves open and we’re letting the Communist Party
in China come in here and undermine our democracy. There’s still nothing to see here according
to Labor and the Libs. People are literally showing up dead. Someone who was supposedly
cultivated by the Chinese government to run as a Liberal Party candidate in the Commonwealth
Parliament has shown up dead. Nothing’s been proven, but it’s really concerning, and I
don’t think anything needs to be proven; I think we all know what’s going on here. What
is clear is that China is actively trying to reshape our democracy, and no-one seems
to be talking about that seriously enough. Honestly, where’s your courage? What are you
scared of? This is not some wacky conspiracy theory. This is happening.
Top security experts in Australia are getting really worried. They’ve been worried for some
time. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve spoken about this influence in the last five or six
years in and out of here. Duncan Lewis, formerly the Director-General of Security at ASIO,
told the Nine newspapers only last month that the Chinese government is seeking to ‘take
over’ Australia’s political system through its ‘insidious’ foreign interference operations.
It might take decades, he said. I don’t think it will. I don’t disagree with it. I don’t
think it’s going to take decades. They’re coming in by stealth. You need to wake up.
He said for Australians to know the effects of their efforts, the risk is that we could
‘wake up one day and find decisions made in our country that are not in the interests
of our country’. This is an existential threat to our society,
and Australians are scared. They’re scared that our country is being bought up. The don’t
need to be scared because they already know what I do: it is being bought up. They’re
scared that their democracy may no longer represent them. It doesn’t, by the way, Australians.
I’ll clear that matter up now. That’s where we’re going. I just want the government and
the opposition to be honest with the people. They deserve honesty. They deserve it. That’s
all we’re asking: just be honest about the scale of the problem and start working together
to fix it. Ignoring the problem is not fixing it. Not having any courage to stand up to
China is not fixing it. You’re like a lame duck in here. Wake up.
Did you know that over 25 per cent of Tasmania’s agriculture land is foreign owned? Our fisheries
and farms are being bought up. Prime agricultural land is being bought up. Across Australia
we’ve sold off everything from our ports to our infrastructure. Now we find out that after
buying Bellamy’s Organic milk for $1.5 billion, the China Mengniu Dairy Company struck a deal
to buy Lion Dairy and Drinks—up in my end of town—for $600 million. I don’t think
there’s much left for the Chinese to buy down in Tassie, I’ll be honest. We’re not up for
bloody sale. Major Australian brands, including Big M, Dairy Farmers, Pura, Berri and Daily
Juice will be Chinese owned under the deal. Millions of Australians have questions that
need answering on this, but we’re so economically dependent on China—who puts all their eggs
in one basket? The good thing is there are some of us up here that can’t be blamed for
that. There are two lots of parties to blame for that in here—one on either side: Liberal
and Labor. The major parties have turned a blind eye. The tiny steps they have taken
don’t nearly match the scale of the problem. We’re selling off Australian values for a
quick buck. A third of Australian exports are China-bound. We ship out more than $120
billion in iron ore and coal exports to China and our universities—shame on them!—rake
in over $32 billion from international students. They still keep propping them up. All up,
we trade nearly $194 billion worth of goods and services between China and Australia—more
than we trade with Japan and the United States combined. Who does that? Who leaves us in
a position like that? All that money is making us complacent. There’s no reason for us to
be singularly focused on China. It’s about time we developed a national strategy
to handle this relationship. We have to start putting in more protections against China’s
attempts to influence our political processes. We have to pull back our economic reliance
on them to buy up all our exports. We need to think more carefully about how much more
we can share of our research and innovation. This government can and should be doing more
to protect our way of life and our Australian values. They can and should protect Australia
from the influence of communist China. We desperately, desperately need to start having
these conversations now. I can tell you now, we are chasing our tail. We are chasing our
tail, and we will continue to do that, and that will get harder unless you stand up and
be brave and show some courage. What’s wrong with having these inquiries?
What are you scared of? Not getting your brown paper bags with cash in them? Come on. You
owe it to every Australian to have this conversation now. We need to know that the government has
this under control, and you do not. We need to know that we have a plan for how to deal
with this. At the moment it looks like you’ve taken your hands off the wheel. You have taken
your hands off the wheel. It’s been off that damn wheel for a long time. Labor and the
coalition, I’m begging you, for the sake of this country, let’s get this inquiry started.
Let’s get the ball rolling on this. Until we do, we’re leaving our economy and our democracy
exposed.