Australian defence and intelligence agencies are increasingly uneasy about the level of Chinese Government influence in the country, with concern that foreign governments are using donations as a way to gain influence in Australia.
Australia’s political donation laws are amongst the most lax in the world. Dr Charles Livingstone of Monash University’s, likens the political donation system in Australia to the operation of criminal money laundering.
“It allows all sorts of dodgy practices to proliferate,” he said, “organisations can influence political policy without any of us knowing anything about it. It is a really easily corruptible system.”
When the ABC investigated Chinese business donations, they found they had poured more than $5.5 million into political party coffers, making them by far the largest source of foreign-linked donations. The investigation revealed that many of the Chinese donors had strong ties with the communist state organisations.
With declared political donations around $1 billion, Dr Livingstone believes the true figure could be triple that because small donations do not have to be declared.
Owning strategic infrastructure is a declared part of Chinese foreign and strategic policy. Owning critical assets like ports and power is a fundamental element in their attempts to economically dominate Eurasia through the “one belt one road” initiative.
However, Australian national security agencies were “unanimous and unequivocal” in their advice to slap down bids like the takeover of Ausgrid, NSW’s electricity distributor.
It remains to be seen whether Australian politicians will heed these warnings from security experts at a time when Chinese political donations are increasing.
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