Senate debates

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Donations to Political Parties

3:31 pm

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Attorney-General (Senator Brandis) to a question without notice relating to the revelations outlined in recent Four Corners and Fairfax investigations that sparked the government into action on donations reform.

It is absolutely critical that we Greens shine a spotlight on what is going on here. Labor and Liberal members of this parliament are implicated through their links to high-profile Chinese businessmen connected to the communist regime in China.

Senator McGrath interjecting

I know this is a very touchy subject for members of the government. When you consider that the billionaire Chinese property developers Huang Xiangmo and Chau Chak Wing and their associates have made almost $6.7 million in political donations to the government and the opposition, it is no wonder that they are so touchy about it. We have revelations that assistance was afforded to Mr Huang in seeking his citizenship in a way that it would not have been for many other citizens.

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Did Sam help you write this speech?

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I will take Senator Macdonald's interjection. I know it is a source of great shame to Senator Macdonald that he has to justify these millions of dollars in donations that are being made to his party. In fact, Mr Huang reportedly threatened to withdraw a donation of $400,000 to the Labor Party because then Defence spokesman Stephen Conroy continued to criticise China's militarisation of the South China Sea. And, of course, we had the infamous comments from Senator Dastyari relating to the South China Sea dispute, which, indeed, to me, seemed to repudiate the policy of the Labor Party.

The former Liberal trade minister Andrew Robb is receiving $880,000 per annum, a contract that began the day before the 2016 election. He was still then serving as the member for Goldstein. We had the part-time consulting fee offered by another Chinese government-linked billionaire, Ye Cheng, who purchased the 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin, and the alarming $100,000 contribution from Mr Huang to Mr Robb's Bayside Forum—that is, his campaign donations vehicle—on the day of the signing of the China free trade agreement in 2014. Utterly remarkable! If you ever wanted a strong endorsement of the Greens proposal for a national anticorruption watchdog, this is it. But, of course, it not just a national anticorruption watchdog that is necessary; we need comprehensive, sweeping donations reform. If it is not enough to hear from ASIO, who have taken the unprecedented step in warning parliamentarians that taking foreign donations could compromise Australian interests, then when will we act?

Of course, as I said, it is not just about foreign donations. The interference of influence from large corporations over domestic politics is undeniable and it is about time that we changed it. What we have is a challenge to the very integrity of our democracy. We have a situation where the rich and powerful are buying influence with both of our major parties—and, whether it be real or perceived, it is no wonder that the Australian community is saying, 'Enough is enough'—and couple that with the revolving door that exists between this chamber and big business. We have had senators in this place who could not wait to get out of the joint so that they could start spruiking for the gambling industry. We have had members of the government who could not wait to leave parliament and start spruiking for big, foreign multinationals. We have a situation where there is a revolving door now between the Liberal-National Party and the oil, coal and gas industries.

We need legislation that will put an end to it, and that is what the Greens have got. We have legislation before the parliament that would prevent the perverse influence of big property developers, mining companies and the alcohol, tobacco and gambling industries on our political system. We have reports from the Australia Institute that claim the mining industry has funnelled millions of dollars into the Liberal and Labor parties and have shown a direct link between these donations and approvals for new mining projects. In fact, an anticorruption watchdog has shed light on some of those within the state parliament.

It is about time that we had sweeping reform. We need a national anticorruption watchdog, we need to put an end to big-money politics through corporate donations and we need to end the revolving door. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.

3:37 pm

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Under standing order 191, I wish to explain a speech or an interjection that Senator Di Natale took up. He has obviously either deliberately misquoted me or misunderstood my interjection. My interjection was not about defending payments by Chinese to the Liberal Party. I do not know that they have ever happened. My interjection was asking Senator Di Natale if he got permission from Senator Dastyari to say what he said and if Senator Dastyari actually helped him write his speech. That was my interjection, so he misunderstood what I said.