US: China buy­ing po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence in Aus­tralia

The Myanmar Times - - World -

THE United States has raised con­cerns about China buy­ing po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence in Aus­tralia, af­ter a raft of rev­e­la­tions over Bei­jing’s fi­nan­cial sup­port for in­flu­en­tial fig­ures.

Po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions from for­eign sources have be­come a highly sen­si­tive is­sue in Aus­tralia, which last week saw the res­ig­na­tion of a lead­ing op­po­si­tion se­na­tor af­ter he ad­mit­ted tak­ing pay­ments to cover ex­penses.

“We have been sur­prised, quite frankly, at the ex­tent of the in­volve­ment of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment in Aus­tralian pol­i­tics,” de­part­ing US am­bas­sador John Berry said in The Aus­tralian news­pa­per yes­ter­day.

“It is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent mat­ter when the gov­ern­ment of China is able to di­rectly fun­nel funds to po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates to ad­vance their na­tional in­ter­ests in your na­tional cam­paign,” Mr Berry said.

“That, to us, is of con­cern. We can­not con­ceive of a case where a for­eign do­na­tion from any gov­ern­ment, friend or foe, would be con­sid­ered le­git­i­mate in terms of that democ­racy.”

For­eign do­na­tions are illegal in the United States, Aus­tralia’s clos­est ally, and Mr Berry urged Can­berra to clean up.

“Our hope is that, in re­solv­ing this, Aus­tralia will con­sider do­ing what many other democ­ra­cies have done: that is to pro­tect their core re­spon­si­bil­ity against un­due in­flu­ence from gov­ern­ments that don’t share our val­ues.”

The op­po­si­tion La­bor Party – reel­ing from Se­na­tor Sam Dast­yari’s down­fall af­ter a donor with links to the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment paid for one of his ex­penses bills – has pro­posed a ban on for­eign do­na­tions in elec­tion cam­paign­ing.

Mr Dast­yari, a high-profile power­bro­ker, had also re­port­edly con­tra­dicted La­bor and gov­ern­ment pol­icy on the South China Sea.

How­ever, Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull’s Lib­eral Party has also re­ceived large do­na­tions from Chi­nese firms and in­di­vid­u­als, of­ten with links to the Bei­jing gov­ern­ment, and has shown lit­tle ap­petite for a ban.

“Look, Aus­tralia is a sov­er­eign na­tion, but I can see no ar­gu­ment of how a for­eign gov­ern­ment’s in­volve­ment through po­lit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions ad­vances Aus­tralia’s in­ter­ests,” the US en­voy said.

“In our coun­try it’s illegal. It would

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