The Chinese are buying up politicians, and making no bones about it.
Here in Greece, things are a geo-political cluster-f#%k.
Greece is wedged between western Europe on one side and Turkey and Asia on the other, and the tentacles of foreign money and power run everywhere.
Remember it was foreign investment banks that dodgied the books for Greece and fudged the debt numbers to get them into the Euro. And it was foreign governments and investment banks that began the biggest privatisation of public assets in human history.
(Not to say Greeks weren’t involved, just highlighting the role of foreign power.)
And I’m looking at this and thinking, in some ways we sure are lucky to be an island in the middle of nowhere.
But this is a global age. Global money knows no barriers. And Australia has a lot to offer.
And all this blew up last week with revelations that Labor up-and-comer Sam Dastyari let Chinese nationals with links to the Chinese governments pay personal debts.
It was declared and nothing illegal was done, but it sure didn’t smell right.
Especially when Dastyari went against his party to support China in the South-China Sea dispute.
It certainly creates the perception in the average man’s mind (speaking as an average man) that Dastyari can be bought…
… in the way that all politicians can be bought because that’s the system we’ve got.
It’s particularly disappointing because Dastyari was shaping as a bit of a hero on this front. Remember back in February when he launched a stunning attack on the state of politics, arguing that “Ten companies controlled Canberra”?
I do. From the Age:
Labor senator Sam Dastyari has warned there is something “fundamentally wrong and rotten” with Australia's entire political system, claiming there are 10 huge companies with so much power and influence they have killed proper democratic process at the federal level in this country…
“[But] none of that (time in the NSW Labor Machine) braced me for an understanding of just how concentrated, brutal and aggressive a handful of businesses operate [in Australia], and the real corporate power where it actually rests in this country,” he said.
He then claimed there are 10 companies that wield the most incredible amount of power in Australia, to the point where it has stifled proper democratic and economic progress.
They have “unprecedented concentration of corporate influence” in Australia, he said.
“The entire political debate has become so dominated by the interests that they're pushing, and the agenda that they're pushing. And [we've] ended up with this complete crowding out of a proper political discourse in this country because there is one sectional interest that is so much louder than every other voice out there combined.”
Fantastic stuff, I thought. What a hero, I thought. Finally a politician who can see the need to clean up Canberra, I thought.
But then what a disappointment. What was his solution to excessive corporate power? Balancing it out with excessive foreign power?
It’s either naïve, stupid or corrupt (just like our political system).
China in particular makes no secret of the fact that it would like to influence domestic politics. It’s not throwing money at our politicians (on both sides) because it warmly admires our western democracy. It want’s to shape it to its own ends.
From Peter Hartcher:
One of the biggest paymasters of Australian politics, the chairman of the property developer Yuhu Group, laid this out explosively for all to see this week.
…Huang has paid more than $1 million to both sides of Australian politics since 2012.
He is also the financier for Bob Carr’s pro-China outfit, giving $1.8 million to set up the Australia China Relations Institute.
…None of this is happening in a vacuum. The president of China, Xi Jinping, has publicly called on the patriotism of overseas Chinese to advance Beijing’s interests in foreign countries:
The Chinese Communist Party even has a department responsible for the co-ordination of Chinese diaspora and international communities – as sinologist Gerry Groot, of Adelaide University, has written:
“The United Front Work Department (UFWD) is the organisation through which the Party reaches out to many key non-party groups within and outside China in order to achieve important political goals.”
… Total disclosed payments to the major parties by Chinese corporate and business interests in the two years to June 30 last year was $5.89 million.
An informed official tells me: “There is very high level concern inside ASIO about the use of donations to purchase access and influence.
“It’s concern about systematic behaviour by people connected to the Chinese state apparatus. It’s centrally directed by Chinese intelligence.”
In case you’re still blinded by the polite idiocy that political donations aren’t about buying influence (I’m looking at you, Sam), the Chinese government is channelling money into Australian politics to corrupt the process and advance its own agenda.
And it’s not making a secret about it!
This is a farce.
At the very least we need to ban foreign political donations. Here’s a map showing which countries currently accept foreign donations.
Yep, that’s us in there along with paragons of democratic virtue, Chad and Uganda.
Seriously, this a joke.
But then you can’t touch foreign donations without admitting that donations to political parties, by their nature and by design, corrupt the political process.
And so that would mean banning all donations.
So do it. Put an end to this sorry joke once and for all.
Because I’m telling you, it’s one thing when your countries is a mess. But when you can’t trust the political process, and there’s murky connections going all over the place, the country falls apart.
Don’t let Australia become another Greece.
What’s the solution here?