Pacific News Minute: Senator Resigns Amid More Reports of Chinese Influence in Australian Politics

Dec 13, 2017

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Last week, we reported on the controversy in Australia over Chinese influence on politics there. Further details on the extent of that influence emerged yesterday when a senator once considered a rising star of the Australian Labor Party resigned over his ties to a Chinese-born billionaire. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

The final straw for Senator Sam Dastyani came this week, when it emerged that he’d begged a colleague, the Labor Party’s Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman, not to meet with Chinese democracy advocates on a visit to Hong Kong.

His links to billionaire Huang Xiangmo go back as far as 2014, when the real estate developer helped out the then rising star of the Labor Party by paying off a legal debt of 40,000 Australian dollars – a little over 30,000 U.S.

Plenty of Australian politicians have accepted money from Mr. Huang over the years, but as campaign contributions, not as personal gifts. And suggestions of influence became hard to deny after Senator Dastyani stood next to Mr. Huang in front of a group of Chinese reporters, where he bucked his own party’s stance on the South China Sea and adopted the Chinese line. Asked about reports of his comments in Chinese media, he said he’d been misquoted until audio tapes appeared.

As he accepted Dastyani’s resignation, Labor Party Leader Bill Shorten described him as a good, decent and loyal Australian. That on the same day that ABC Australian Radio reported that Mr. Huang paid 41,000 dollars for lunch with Mr. Shorten two years ago, to discuss the Labour Party’s opposition to a China Australia Trade agreement.

A position the labor party changed the following day.

Last week, the government proposed new laws to limit foreign contributions to politicians and require registration of foreign lobbyists.