QWN: China

Senator Lambie: My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Brandis. I refer the minister to a recent ABC Four Corners report which said:

But there are hidden dangers in doing business with China: endemic corruption; a lack of transparency in both business and the legal system, and questions about where the money is coming from and whether ill-gotten gains are being laundered.

"China (is) by far the biggest exporter of illicit capital."

With billions of dollars flowing out of China, international money laundering experts are warning that some of it is making its way into Australia:

I also refer the minister to the Australian Electoral Commission figures which show that since 2007 the Liberal Party have accepted almost $2 million in political donations from two businessmen closely linked to the Chinese communist government. Can the minister give this Senate a guarantee that the Chinese money funding his party's election campaigns was not laundered ill-gotten gains? I want a guarantee. Senator BRANDIS : I did not see the program to which you refer. I am generally aware of it. I saw a promotional advertisement for it, so I am generally aware of the kind of allegations that were made in that program. I have no basis on which to judge the veracity or the accuracy of any allegations that were made during the course of that program. I acquaint you with what the Commonwealth does do to protect the Australian national interest in relation to corrupt foreign payments. Under section 70.2 of the Criminal Code we have the offence of 'foreign bribery', whereby a person is guilty of an offence if the person provides, causes or offers a benefit to another person, the benefit is not legitimately due and the person does so with the intention of influencing a foreign public official in the exercise of the official's duties in order to obtain business or obtain a business advantage that is not legitimately due. As well, Australia is a party to the OECD antibribery convention and has been since 1999. Australia is in fact a member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery. In 2012 the working group on bribery evaluated Australia's implementation of the antibribery convention. The evaluation report made 33 recommendations to enhance our antibribery regime. In December 2014, the OECD published the response, and the OECD ... I have a very high level of confidence that all donations to the Liberal Party are compliant with all relevant Commonwealth and state laws. Senator LAMBIE: Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the minister to the Australian Electoral Commission's figures, which show that, since 2007, the National, Liberal and Labor parties have accepted at least $4.8 million in political donations from three businessmen—Dr Chau, Mr Chun and Mr Huang—who are closely linked to the Chinese communist government.

Can the minister detail the steps his government has taken to guarantee that those funds are not from corrupt activities?

Senator BRANDIS: I am not familiar with any of the three men whose names you have mentioned, and I have no idea whether they have an association with the Chinese Communist Party or not. I am also not familiar with the particular report to which you refer, so I cannot comment on whether or not that is an accurate representation of what the Australian Electoral Commission has reported. I cannot speak, of course, for the Australian Labor Party, but I can tell you, Senator Lambie, that the Liberal Party, the National Party, the Liberal National Party in Queensland and Senator Scullion from the Country Liberal Party in the Northern Territory—the family of political parties which I represent in this chamber—all take their legal and compliance obligations in relation to political donations very seriously.

Senator LAMBIE: Mr President, I ask a final supplementary question. Can the minister give a guarantee that millions of dollars of suspect political donations linked to the Chinese government have not influenced the creation of a dodgy free trade deal which undermines Australian sovereignty, threatens Australian workers' job security and dramatically decreases scrutiny on investment from a country which is a bully, a thief, a liar and a serious security threat to this nation? Senator BRANDIS: I think it is a great pity that you refer to the government of China, which is a country with which Australia has and has had for very many years a very friendly relationship, in those terms. I think that is very injudicious of you, Senator Lambie. You will not find me expressing anything other than pride in the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement because, for the reasons that some of my colleagues have expanded upon during question time today, the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement represents a unique opportunity for Australia to prosper, to grow our markets, to grow jobs for small, medium and large businesses, and to have unparalleled entry into the market of our greatest trading partner. So we are unabashedly proud of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.