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Labor fights back on China links claim

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Federal Labor says it no longer receives donations from Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo, which is in stark contrast to the Coalition, led by Malcolm Turnbull.

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Fairfax Media reports Bill Shorten and his family visited Huang’s home in March 2016 to solicit funds for the Labor Party’s federal election campaign ads.

This was after security agencies briefed ALP national secretary George Wright in October 2015 on Huang’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

However, it is unclear whether the concerns were shared with the Opposition Leader before his visit.

A Labor spokesman said today the prime minister, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and other senior members of the Liberal Party had attended functions with Huang in the past.

“Both sides of politics have met with Mr Huang in the past and received donations from him,” the spokesman said.

“The difference is, Labor no longer does, but Turnbull has refused to make the same guarantee.”

The revelation about Shorten’s visit comes as Labor senator Sam Dastyari is again embroiled in a scandal involving Huang and Chinese influence on local politicians.

Senior Labor frontbencher Tony Burke says there was a series of security briefings regarding people with ties to China, but the advice received in 2015 wasn’t to stop accepting donations.

“It’s been strengthening over time. In 2015, the answer is no … we weren’t getting advice that strong as I understand it,” he told ABC radio today.

“As security advice strengthened, Labor took a decision – that the government still hasn’t taken – that for the people who had concerns raised about them, we would stop taking donations from them.”

Shorten was not personally briefed by ASIO on the issue until late 2016.

Since 2015, Labor has accepted $141,000 in donations from companies related to Huang while the Liberal and National parties have taken nearly $138,000.

Quizzed about these donations – which are on the public record – senior cabinet minister Christopher Pyne said he was not aware of any contributions by Huang and wouldn’t comment on them.

“I’m not aware of the circumstances, I don’t know who was warned, by the way, I’m not sure if it was the federal director or the federal leader – it certainly wasn’t me,” he told ABC radio.

Meanwhile, Huang’s former adviser, Tim Xu, has joined the Liberal campaign for John Alexander in the Bennelong by-election.

He appears in a photograph tweeted by Alexander, who praises his “wonderful volunteers”.

The Greens say the whole affair underscores the need for a federal anti-corruption watchdog, since at the moment there is no formal process to investigate such matters.

“This is a symptom of a much bigger problem,” Senator Peter Whish-Wilson told reporters in Canberra.

“If we had a federal ICAC we would be referring these issues to a federal independent commission.”

– AAP

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