Malcolm Turnbull has enjoyed a poll boost as it’s revealed Labor leader Bill Shorten visited the home of a Chinese tycoon despite warnings from ASIO.
The prime minister’s Coalition team has posted a small recovery in Newspoll, with its primary vote up two points to 36 per cent.
However, the government still trails Labor 53 per cent to 47 per cent after preferences, marking Mr Turnbull’s 24th consecutive Newspoll loss.
Malcolm Turnbull enjoyed a small Newspoll recovery but it’s still his 24th consecutive poll loss
Bill Shorten reportedly sought election funding from Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo when in March 2016
The opinion poll news came as The Sydney Morning Herald revealed Mr Shorten had visited Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo at his Sydney mansion, reportedly months after a warning from ASIO.
The Opposition Leader and his family reportedly visited Mr Huang’s North Shore home at Mosman in March last year to solicit funds for the Labor Party’s 2016 campaign ads.
The revelation come with Senator Sam Dastyari embroiled in a scandal involving Mr Huang and Chinese influence on local politicians.
Mr Shorten has not denied the visit, but pointed out to Fairfax that senior government figures including Mr Turnbull, his deputy Julie Bishop and his predecessor Tony Abbott, had all socialised with Mr Huang.
Foreign donations to Australian political parties will be banned to prevent figures like Mr Huang (pictured) influencing Australian politics with donations
Labor’s national secretary George Wright was briefed by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on Mr Huang’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party in October 2015.
Fairfax Media said it was unclear whether the concerns were shared with the opposition leader before his visit.
Mr Shorten was not personally briefed by ASIO on the issue until late 2016, long after the visit.
Mr Shorten’s office stressed his home visit did not compromise Australia’s national security and that Labor would ‘no longer accept donations from Mr Huang’.
‘It is unbelievable that Mr Turnbull still refuses to do the same.’
Senator Dastyari relinquished his post as deputy opposition whip last week after he allegedly warned Mr Huang his phone might be bugged by ASIO
Huang Xiangmo’s former adviser Tim Xu is working on Liberal candidate John Alexander’s campaign team
Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph says Mr Huang’s former adviser, Tim Xu, has joined the Liberal campaign for John Alexander in the Bennelong by-election.
Foreign donations to Australian political parties will be banned in the wake of Labor senator Sam Dastyari’s alleged leak to a Chinese businessman.
New laws will also also crack down on classified information leaks, and criminalise supporting foreign spy agencies.
The government will introduce the legislation this week amid reports Bill Shorten sought election funding from Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo.
Senator Dastyari was forced to resign as deputy opposition whip last week after he allegedly warned the same businessman his phone might be bugged by ASIO.
The new laws would make it a criminal offence to support foreign intelligence agencies in the same way as helping terrorist organisations, The Sydney Morning Herald said.
A U.S.-style register of foreign agents would be set up to help prevent political interference in Australian politics.
Disclosing classified or other harmful information would be criminalised, along with covert or deceptive activities that, while not espionage, interferes with Australia’s democratic process.
The reforms followed Attorney-General George Brandis’ review of foreign interference, which he said was ‘a problem of the highest order and it is getting worse’.
Labor leader Bill Shorten pointed out Huang Xiangmo’s link to Liberal deputy Julie Bishop
The Opposition Leader dined with Mr Huang, who has links to the Chinese Communist Party, in his Sydney mansion in May 2016.
He was there to ask for donations for the Federal Election last July, sources told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Mr Shorten did not deny meeting the controversial tycoon at his Mosman home, but did not answer questions about why he was there.
His visit came after ALP national secretary George Wright, along with representatives from the Liberal and Nationals, were briefed in October 2015 by ASIO about Chinese interference in Australian politics using cash donations.
ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis told them the agency was concerned about Mr Huang’s connections to the Communist Party.
It was not clear whether Mr Wright told Mr Shorten the contents of the briefing, and the Opposition leader didn’t have his own until late 2016.
The new laws introduced by Attorney-General George Brandis will also also crack down on classified information leaks, and criminalise supporting foreign spy agencie
Mr Huang (pictured left with Senator Dastyari centre) has links to the Chinese Communist Party and ASIO was concerned about his ability to influence Australian politics with donations
A spokesman for Mr Shorten said both Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had also met with Mr Huang.
Both said they had never visited the businessman’s home, but Mr Turnbull met him at an event and Mr Shorten and trade minister Andrew Robb attended his daughter’s wedding last January.
Mr Shorten’s office stressed his March 2015 visit with Mr Huang did not compromise Australia’s national security.
Since the ASIO briefing, Labor accepted $141,000 in donations from Mr Huang, the Liberal Party $122,960, and the Nationals $15,000.
Liberal candidate for Bennelong, John Alexander, has also been dragged into the scandal with revelations Mr Huang’s until-recently aide Tim Xu is working for him.
Mr Alexander is contesting a by-election against former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally on November 13 after he had to resign over his dual citizenship.
Mr Xu was close confidant and translator to Mr Huang, who can’t speak English, until he resigned in August and joined Mr Alexander’s campaign.
He was seen handing out how-to-vote cards in the heavily-Chinese suburb of Eastwood, Sydney, wearing a John Alexander T-shirt alongside volunteers.
John Alexander (L) campaigning with Malcolm Turnbull as he contests a by-election on November 13 after he had to resign over his dual citizenship
Mr Xu was also one of four people in the meeting where Senator Dastyari cut ties with Mr Huang and warned him about possible surveillance.
‘He was the witness in the room as Huang’s interpreter,’ one of two sources confirming his presence told the Daily Telegraph.
Senator Dastyari allegedly told Mr Huang they should leave their phones inside when they met at the donor’s Mosman mansion in October last year.
The meeting was less than a month after he stepped down as consumer affairs spokesman and manager of opposition business in the Senate.
His parliamentary fall from grace followed revelations he’d allowed Mr Huang to pay a personal debt and taken a pro-China stance on the South China Sea – at odds with Labor’s position.
Senator Dastyari previously said he only ‘incorrectly’ mumbled an answer backing Beijing’s controversial policy when asked by Chinese reporters.
But the embattled Labor senator was forced to walk the plank again last week after audio emerged which made his remarks appear prepared and scripted.
Mr Huang with former prime minister Julia Gillard and Senator Dastyari
Senator Dastyari allegedly told Mr Huang they should leave their phones inside when they met at Mr Huang’s Mosman mansion in October last year
However, Senator Dastyari still denied any wrongdoing or leaking of classified material to Mr Huang at his meeting or at any other time.
‘After the events of last year, I spoke to Mr Huang to tell him that I did not think it was appropriate that we have future contact,’ he said.
‘I thought it was a matter of common courtesy to say this face-to-face.’
He insisted he was never briefed by any security agency, or received any classified information.
‘I reject any assertion that I did anything other than put to Mr Huang gossip being spread by journalists,’ he said.
He repeated this in his resignation speech, saying: ‘I’ve never passed on intelligence information. I’ve never been in possession of any.’
SENATOR SAM DASTYARI AND HIS CHINESE LINKS
* August 2013: Sam Dastyari elected to the Senate to replace Matt Thistlethwaite who quit to run for a lower house seat.
* 2015: ASIO cautions Labor and the Liberals against taking donations from two businessmen – Huang Xiangmo and Dr Chau Chak Wing – suspected of being conduits to the Chinese Communist Party.
* June 2016: Dastyari defends China’s actions in the South China Sea during a press conference to Chinese journalists, attended by Huang. ‘The Chinese integrity of its borders is a matter for China,’ he said, contradicting Labor policy outlined by its then defence spokesman just days earlier.
* Details of the press conference were revealed in September 2016, at which time Dastyari said he had only ‘incorrectly’ mumbled an answer to a question he should not have taken.
* August 31, 2016: Government documents reveal the Top Education Institute – a Chinese higher education provider – paid Dastyari’s $1670.82 excess travel bill. Dastyari admits in parliament he should have paid the bill himself.
* September 5, 2016: New details emerge that Dastyari failed to declare two bottles of wine worth $700 given by big Chinese donors.
* September 6, 2016: Shorten tells off his ‘junior senator’ but will not sack him. Dastyari bumbles through a 26-minute press conference where he admits he was wrong to have a Chinese donor pay outstanding bills. He remains defiant that he did not provide political favours in return for the payments.
* September 7, 2016: Quits Labor shadow ministry and role as manager of opposition business in the Senate.
* October 2016: Met with Huang at the businessman’s Sydney mansion and reportedly told him they should leave their phones inside while they spoke outside, as a counter-surveillance measure, and warned him his phone may be tapped.
* February 2017: Appointed deputy opposition whip in the Senate.
* June 2017: ABC’s Four Corners reports Dastyari lobbied for Huang to secure Australian citizenship. He says such efforts were part of his job and his office had dealt with hundreds of citizenship matters since he was elected.
* November 28, 2017: Fairfax reports on the October 2016 meeting with Huang. Full audio of the June 2016 press conference emerges, contradicting the senator’s September 2016 explanation.
* November 29, 2017: Bill Shorten tells Dastyari he must resign senior parliamentary positions, including as deputy opposition whip in the Senate. Dastyari says he is ‘shocked’ the audio does not match his recollection of what he said at the press conference.