Three media reports in the Sydney Morning Herald could be seen as a “Relapse of the China Panic” since it went into remission last December. It came in a period where Chinese Australians celebrate the Lunar New Year and indeed some would say what a “bloody new year” present (a pun – Red packets are gifts during the festive period). The Chinese Australian community reacted to these publications and the SMH was kind enough to publish them. On political donations, Australians will have the final say whether to accept all donations with conditions or ban them all together.
It would appear that the media is having a relapse of China Panic where the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) did a story “Abbott, Liberal figures at event with Chinese Communist Party” published on 1 February 2019 about political donations by Chinese Australian Tommy Jiang. This story was accompanied by photographs containing Tommy Jiang and well-known politicians and the usual story about Jiang’s relationship with the Chinese government, and prompted a letter to the Editor from the Chinese Australian community, published in the SMH on 4 Feb 2019 and reproduced here:
Australia is an immigrant country and politicians are subjected to lobbying from community, business and political groups linked or not linked to a foreign government (‘‘Abbott rues dinner with China ‘influence pedlars’’’, February 2-3). Every country has an agenda and it is up to our government to remain independent despite lobbying. The media reporting is biased, sensational and discriminatory; and appeared polarised by geopolitics. Political donations are labelled sinister because of a polarised political view.
Both major parties accept donations in a level playing field where the law applies to all. The Foreign Interference Transparency Scheme Act 2018 applies to all. This only applies to lobbying. To be really transparent, the bill should be extended to cover the donor, the amount and to which political party.
The general philosophy is lobby all you like with whatever financial means but we are protected by ‘‘Transparency Bills’’ and the faith in our politicians to have integrity and making decisions in our national interests. If that was the case, former PM Abbott wouldn’t have to say, ‘‘I didn’t know them.’’ –
On 2 Feb 2019, the SMH again came up with a report “Premier promises to get tough on corrupt politicians”. The Chinese Australian community reacted with a message similar to its earlier letter to the Editor of SMH but added two distinct paragraphs with a suggestion. The comment was published in the SMH blog:
If the Premier is serious about prevention of corrupt practice, it could lead Australia by introducing legislation to increase transparency that requires compulsory declaration of the donor, the amount and to which political party.
The general philosophy is lobby all you like with whatever financial means but we are protected by “Transparency Bills” and the faith in our politicians to have integrity and making decisions in our national interests.
On the 6 February, another sensational expose appeared in the SMH and this time with the “old favourite” Mr Huang Xiangmo and the cancellation of his permanent resident visa. Again, the Chinese Australian community responded with a comment and was published in the blog:
The decision to cancel Huang Xiangmo permanent residency visa whilst he is overseas is an interesting precedent in many respects without having to go into the merits of the government’s decision (& including Intelligence reports) but just on our current immigration law.
Off shore cancellation of PR visa whilst the permanent resident is overseas is rare whilst on shore cancelled of PR visa is common.
On shore cancellation of PR visa on bad character defined by conviction of a crime that carries a substantial jail sentence. On visa cancellation the person is normally deported. If the person is stateless, there will be problems deporting the person, as shown in the case of Neil Prakash, an alleged jihadist.
Cancellation on character grounds is a wide net and the lack of criminal conviction narrows the range of reasons, but the government can still exercise discretionary powers.
The timing of the cancellation occurring amid international intrigue viz. China-US Trade War, Huawei’s CFO Meng arrest in Canada, Canadians detention in China, an expose of Tommy China connection, could perceived by China as unfriendly. This report could put strain on the Australia-China relations.
Hence, the unintended consequence of this cancellation viz a viz geopolitics and Australia-China diplomatic and trade relations is for the Feds to manage. Many readers have already expressed their opinion on this.
Australia is a fair country and the court system will finally adjudicate the case.
From this report, if you are considered a “bad” character, the Resident Return Visa (RRV) is no guarantee of your return to Australia.
Law abiding permanent residents should be encouraged to apply for Australian citizenship when they become eligible and forget about dual citizenship.
The thrust of the comment above was simply to discuss the applicable immigration law and not to make any challenges about the discretionary power of the government in visa cancellation according to law.
All three reports have a common thread, i.e. political donations and foreign political donations.
Every country lobbies Australia irrespective whether they are aligned with us in political philosophy or geopolitical position.
If the citizens have no faith in their politicians in making independent decisions in our national interest, then ask for legislation totally banning foreign political donations. This is a “big ask” and it is also impossible to find the political will that could have the bill pass through parliament.
The next best thing to do is to make all political donations transparent and accountable including those from business and mining corporations, special interest groups and individuals.
A level playing field, transparency and accountability is what our Democracy needs.
Andrew Hastie MP returned the $10,000 political donation and there has been some SMH readers suggesting that both major parties should return the million dollar donations to the donor.
Dr Anthony Pun OAM is the current National President of the Chinese Community Council of Australia.