Last week Four Corners - the premier news program of the Australian Broadcasting Commission ran a story about the influence of the Chinese Communist Party in Australia.
Some of the story was obvious - for instance how Chinese students are coopted to drown out rallies by Falun Gong or other opponents of the CCP. A typical story involves a CCP figure visiting Australia, a bunch of human rights rallies and hundreds of Chinese students bussed to the rally with the intention of overwhelming regime opponents.
A Chinese student involved in organising these rallies was interviewed. She made it clear that the embassy helped. Moreover it was clear there was social pressure (or worse) on students to conform - and that non-conformity had a negative effect on the family back home.
But the more interesting part of the story was how these sudden billionaire Chinese businessman (including businessmen who hung out with spies) were giving large donations to Australian institutions and thus getting close to politicians. (Universities were recipients as well as political parties...)
And that some of these businessmen - liked hanging out with politicians (and sometimes paid their legal expenses). And then after having received a benefit the said politician expressed views on the South China Sea contrary to the Australian Government).
This largess crossed party lines. Both sides of politicians had ex-politicians on what were some very generous consulting gigs.
One of these businessmen gave money to the Australian Chinese Relations Institute - an organisation headed by Bob Carr - a former Premier of my home State (New South Wales) and a former Foreign Minister of Australia.
The implication was that Bob Carr (and his institute) was in some sense compromised.
I have always liked Bob Carr. He was the New South Wales Environment Minister when I was in my twenties - and I thought he was great. I still do.
So when invited to attend a talk sponsored by ACRI I jumped at the chance. Ignoring the usual advice that it is not a good idea to meet your heroes (especially if they are politicians) I rocked up full of excitement.
Here is the flyer...
When I got there I got a fabulously naïve talk about how various Chinese businessmen making huge waves in Australia were independent businessmen and not in any way arms of the Chinese government. (This includes people who were trying to buy ports near military bases in Northern Australia.)
The naiveté was amazing. Some of these newly minted billionaires career went roughly as follows:
a). Follow dad into the Peoples' Liberation Army (where he is a senior general)
b). Retire in your twenties
c). Start an import/export business. Make a quick 15 million.
d). Invest that in a huge land business. Turn that into a quick billion.
e). At the age of 35 turn up in another country and throw half that money round buying strategically important assets.
But these businessmen were in no way affiliated with the CCP.
Whatever: I left thinking I was born on a Monday - but not last Monday.
(But I was well satisfied with the drinks and canapés...)
Anyway Bob Carr is in The Australian (Murdoch's national newspaper in Australia) dissing the whole Four Corners story. You can read his defence. It didn't go very near how his own organisation might or might not be compromised.
Go on. Read it.
I think he would be better leaving things alone.
But as he hasn't I thought I might just put the document circulated that night up for all to read. Maybe the China experts here can tell me whether this is merely naïve (which would be my normal guess) or directly paid for by the CCP.
Here is the link.
As Bob Carr has chosen Murdoch's network to defend his benefactors maybe I should just end with the most famous News Corp slogan: I report, you decide.
I should note that I am in no way opposed to Chinese billionaires (even if they are CCP linked) investing their loot in Australia. In fact I would encourage it - and can probably suggest some fine ways of investing it.
I just think a ninety minute seminar suggesting a string of Chinese billionaires don't have powerful ties to the CCP is - well quaint at best...