The 4350water Blog highlights some of the issues relating to proposals for potable reuse in Toowoomba and South East Qld. 4350water blog looks at related political issues as well.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Foreign Minister Joel Fitzgibbon - the skinny on his Chinese government-linked gal pal ...

Helen Liu, the Chinese born millionaire and close friend and landlady of Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon is the daughter of a senior Communist Party official and former provincial governor.

The Courier-Mail can also reveal that Mr Fitzgibbon was repaying a $20,000 campaign debt when he flew to China to assist Ms Liu to clinch some business deals on his wife Dianne's birthday, Christmas Day in 2002.

Ms Liu had donated $20,000 to his campaign fund for his first election in 1996 from a total of $90,000 given to the ALP.

The strong friendship between a government minister and the daughter of a Communist Party official was bound to ring alarm bells inside Canberra's shadowy spy community.
...

Funding a struggling new MP's election campaigns to the tune of $20,000 buys a lot of favours, including Mr Fitzgibbon's two-day dashes to Shanghai and Beijing to help her win some business deals.
...


See - Courier Mail - Joel Fitzgibbon trip to repay campaign funds donation.

Aah, politics ...

15 Comments:

Anonymous newswatch said...

Sydney Morning Herald:

MPs hooked on Chinese junkets
March 28, 2009

ALMOST one in four federal MPs have accepted free overseas travel worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from foreign governments, private companies and lobby groups in just 16 months since the last election.

An investigation by the Herald has found politicians from all parties have taken 109 trips abroad, often business or first class, and which frequently include all expenses.

China is the main destination with 19 visits, followed closely by Israel (15) and Taiwan and the US (both 14).

The confession of the Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, that he had failed to declare two trips to China in 2002 and 2005 has thrown the spotlight on this unregulated scheme, described yesterday by one long-time political insider as "pretend transparency".

A Queensland Liberal MP, Michael Johnson, has enjoyed 13 trips to destinations such as Bali, Phuket, Egypt, Beijing, Vienna, Tibet and India, and he is due to travel again this weekend to Shanghai. Other frequent travellers were the former ministers Alexander Downer and Mark Vaile. Mr Vaile now works as a consultant for the company that paid for three of his trips.

The number of "travel gifts" is running at four times the rate of the taxpayer-funded around-the-world study trips, and this has raised eyebrows inside the Government, where some players believe all travel paid for by third parties should be banned. However, many senior Labor MPs, including the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, have taken such trips in the past.

Sixty-one MPs have accepted travel gifts since the election. This does not include the 102 trips taken by ministers (up to June 30, 2008) for official business, the 37 MPs who travelled overseas as part of parliamentary delegations or the 24 MPs who used their overseas study entitlement.

There is no requirement for MPs to reveal the cost of the travel gifts, what they do or who they meet, and despite the rule that they must declare gifts within 28 days there is no penalty for failing to disclose other than the vague guideline that they will be "guilty of a serious contempt … and shall be dealt with by the House accordingly".

"No independent person oversees these trips and there are no rules. Most of the politicians declare as little information as possible," one insider said.

Norm Kelly, of the Australian National University's Centre for Democratic Institutions, called for greater scrutiny. "If an organisation or company or government is spending money on Australian MPs there's a reason for it. They're not doing it to develop democracy in Australia. They see a positive outcome for their organisation and the question is whether that's a positive for Australia as well."

Dr Kelly said it was also at odds with the Government's proposal to ban foreign donations to political parties. The register shows MPs accepted travel from governments including China, Taiwan and Singapore. Six Labor and two Liberal MPs travelled to China on the same nine-day trip in October-November last year.

"The argument for banning donations is that a $10,000 donation can buy influence and access," Dr Kelly said. "A $10,000 trip overseas is doing the same thing and it's probably a more effective way of doing it too because you've got the person captured for that trip.

"The Government don't want foreigners influencing Australian elections but they're allowing it to occur through donations in kind as travel."

Mr Johnson, who holds the Brisbane seat of Ryan, set up the Australia-China Development Association to help pay for his travel and it has funded six of his 13 trips. It gets money from corporations but does not fund trips by any other MPs.

"I consider this to be visionary on my part to find a way in which I can cover my expenses to go to key events," he said. "I'm a young MP and I one day plan to be foreign minister."

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council has paid for 13 MPs to visit Israel since November 2007. The executive director, Colin Rubenstein, said the program had been running for several years and offered trips to Australians to help them understand the complexity of the Middle East. Journalists, including some from the Herald, have accepted this trip.

10:15 AM, March 28, 2009

 
Anonymous newswatch said...

Herald Sun:

How much influence does China have on Rudd’s team?

March 28, 2009

Did the Chinese Government ultimately pay for Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon’s free - and undisclosed - travel?

THE Chinese businesswoman who paid for trips to China by Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon accompanied him on the visits and introduced him to political officials.

Mr Fitzgibbon yesterday confirmed that Helen Liu had played a central role during two China trips, after he was forced to apologise for failing to declare that they had been paid for by the businesswoman...Her role in introducing Mr Fitzgibbon to Chinese political officials, as well as paying for his trips, indicates she is well-connected to the Chinese Government.

Indeed, did the Chinese Government also ultimately pay for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s many free trips?

To summarise - a Chinese Government-owned company shares the address, phone number and line of business of a company which in turn runs the website of the mysterious company which sponsored Kevin Rudd’s trips.

Meanwhile, more covert lobbying by China:

THE propaganda chief of the Chinese Communist Party visited the country farm of ABC chairman Maurice Newman during his mysterious visit to Australia. The next day, Li Changchun lobbied ABC managing director Mark Scott over the broadcaster’s coverage of Tibet, saying he wanted the Chinese Government’s views fully represented.

However, Kevin Rudd’s office yesterday moved to shut down any further disclosures about the movements of China’s fifth-most powerful man during his Australian visit this week… Mr Rudd’s office last night refused The Weekend Australian’s request that it release the full itinerary of Mr Li’s five-day, taxpayer-funded official visit, which ended on Tuesday.

Rudd is now spinning frantically in reverse to avoid the Manchurian Candidate tag:
CHINESE-OWNED Minmetals has been blocked from acquiring the key asset in its $2.6 billion bid for OZ Minerals because the South Australian gold and copper mine was too close to a sensitive Australian defence facility.

But Dennis Shanahan urges caution:

But ill-timed bumbling doesn’t mean Labor is handing over Australian sovereignty to China nor that Rudd is the Manchurian candidate with a Chinese chip in his neck and Harold Holt in the backyard of The Lodge…

As China undoubtedly becomes more aggressive economically and militarily in a world it is increasingly going to influence, there are legitimate concerns about putting Australia’s security - national, resource or economic - at Beijing’s beck and call.

The Prime Minister and Wayne Swan both know they face a diabolical dilemma in choosing to accept much-needed Chinese investment while trying to keep China from controlling resource production in Australia and, hence, prices for our exports through state-owned companies or investment funds.

But I’m concerned that to the Chinese, silence from potential partners on some issues is golden. And I’m also concerned that Rudd is personally very ambitious to be such a partner, for political and post-politics positioning, as much as for any consideration of the national interest.

UPDATE

Greg Sheridan is less forgiving - or less naive:

NO nation makes a greater espionage effort directed at Australian military and commercial technology than does China… Beijing has the most unified and co-ordinated sense of national power of any big nation on Earth. Modern China is not a democracy, but it is a very effectively functioning modern state…

But the Chinese Government seeks to use every resource it can to gain information and to exercise power… It is impossible to regard a big Chinese company, especially one operating in a strategic or sensitive sector, in the same light as you might regard a big private company from Japan or South Korea…

In 2005, a Chinese consul based in Sydney, Chen Yonglin, defected amid a blaze of publicity. He alleged there were 1000 Chinese agents in Australia, mainly involved in monitoring and manipulating students and business people of Chinese origin…

Beijing’s interest in Australia stems from two main sources: one is that it needs our mineral resources; the second is that as a close ally of the US, we have access to high-end military and especially communications technology.

UPDATE

Opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey attacks:

I’m concerned about, you know, the pattern of behaviour at the moment. Kevin Rudd received free trips when he was in Opposition, from Chinese interests. Wayne Swan the Treasurer received these trips; Tony Burke the Agriculture Minister. Now we hear about the Defence Minister receiving free trips from China.

At the same time, we learn today that the Australian Government is borrowing around $500 million a week from the Chinese Government… And you know, then we discover that Kevin Rudd had a meeting with the Chinese Propaganda Minister and didn’t tell the Australian media. I mean, what’s going on?

Reporter Lenore Taylor’s verdict?

...dog whistling to the xenophobics among us.

Dear God.

UPDATE 2

How Chinese largesse does not come free:
Ms Liu had donated $20,000 to (Fitzgibbon’s) campaign fund for his first election in 1996… Funding a struggling new MP’s election campaigns to the tune of $20,000 buys a lot of favours, including Mr Fitzgibbon’s two-day dashes to Shanghai and Beijing to help her win some business deals.

Fitzgibbon even made a trip for Liu on his wife’s birthday.

11:23 AM, March 28, 2009

 
Anonymous newswatch said...

The Australian:

PM's office keeps visit secret

March 28, 2009

THE propaganda chief of the Chinese Communist Party visited the country farm of ABC chairman Maurice Newman during his mysterious visit to Australia.

The next day, Li Changchun lobbied ABC managing director Mark Scott over the broadcaster's coverage of Tibet, saying he wanted the Chinese Government's views fully represented.

However, Kevin Rudd's office yesterday moved to shut down any further disclosures about the movements of China's fifth-most powerful man during his Australian visit this week.

The Government has been under fire since it was revealed that the Prime Minister held meetings with Mr Li at The Lodge last weekend without telling the Australian media, while inviting China's state-run media to cover the event.

The meeting came at a time when a series of multi-billion-dollar investment deals were pending between the countries.

Mr Rudd's office last night refused The Weekend Australian's request that it release the full itinerary of Mr Li's five-day, taxpayer-funded official visit, which ended on Tuesday.

"The Australian Government does not release the details of travel arrangements by visiting foreign dignitaries," a spokeswoman for Mr Rudd said.

Such information is usually withheld only for security reasons before a visit, not after the visitor has left.

"Questions about Mr Li's itinerary are more appropriately directed to the Chinese embassy," the spokeswoman said.

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy did not want to talk about Mr Li's itinerary, referring this newspaper to reports of the visit in China's state-run media.

Meanwhile the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it had nothing to do with the visit, and inquiries should be directed to the Prime Minister's office.

The veil of secrecy from the Government surrounding the visit was in sharp contrast to the wide coverage given by Chinese media to Mr Li's visit.

The Weekend Australian has learned that on Sunday morning -- at the same time as Mr Rudd was on TV calling for China to play a more central role in the global financial system -- Mr Li was driven to Mr Newman's farm outside Canberra.

Mr Li's visit was organised by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, but the trip to the farm was believed to have been orchestrated by Mr Newman, who last year stepped down as chairman of the Australian Securities Exchange.

After visiting Mr Newman's farm between 10.30am and 12.50pm, the delegation travelled to Sydney, where they are believed to have met Seven Network chairman Kerry Stokes.

A day later, Mr Li met Mr Scott in Sydney, where he lobbied the ABC managing director about the broadcaster's coverage of Tibet.

Mr Li's meetings with both Mr Newman and Mr Scott came at a time when the ABC is seeking Beijing's permission to broadcast ABC news directly into China via its international service, the Australia Network.

Mr Li told Mr Scott he wanted the Chinese Government's views to be fully represented in ABC reports on Tibet.

"He felt the Chinese position on Tibet does not get the coverage it should in Western media,' Mr Scott said.

"I indicated that, under our editorial policies, we have a principle that all relevant issues and viewpoints are heard."

Other talking points were Tibet, the Dalai Lama and the proposed $19.5 billion deal between Chinalco and Rio Tinto.

11:29 AM, March 28, 2009

 
Blogger Concerned Ratepayer said...

And where did China's chief propaganda guy head to after visiting Kevin Rudd - Myanmar.

China signs oil-gas pipeline deal with Myanmar

27 Mar 2009

BEIJING: Energy hungry China has signed a deal with the military junta of Myanmar to build cross border oil and gas pipelines, a move that may have strategic and economic implications for India. Beijing has also offered to help the smaller neighbour in constructing hydroelectricity projects, the Chinese government said on Friday.

The decisions, which will enhance China's political influence over Myanmar, comes after a visit by Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee, to the country on Thursday.

Sources said the two countries are working on plans to lay 2,000 kms of pipeline passing through Ruili and Kunming in China's provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou province besides the Chongqing municipality. The pipeline will prove a cheaper route compared to the existing oil cargo channel through the congested Malacca Strait besides opening up a new source of oil and gas in Myanmar for China.

The pipeline is expected to cost $1.2 billion and China is likely to bear the entire cost. The Chinese offer of assistance will in some ways make it possible for Beijing to influence India's relationship with Myanmar, sources pointed out. China is expected to begin the process of lying the pipelines this year.

China's offer of assistance is more than welcome in Myanmar, which is being boycotted by most western nations owing to its poor human rights record and continued detention of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

"China will continue to encourage competent enterprises to invest in Myanmar or participate in your infrastructure construction," Li told the leaders in Nay Pyi Taw, the capital of Myanmar. He proposed to help out the country in sectors including energy, transport and telecommunication. Li also called on both countries to enhance cultural exchanges and cooperation while enhancing the friendly feelings of the two peoples.

Li went a step further and suggested close coordination between the ruling political parties in the two countries. The two nations should also work together in the area of international diplomacy, he suggested.

11:44 AM, March 28, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd secretly met Li Changchun, the head of China's propaganda, media and ideology and ranked as the country's fifth-most powerful member of its nine-person ruling politburo standing committee, last Saturday at The Lodge. Though the Australian media was in the dark about the meting, the paper says the news made headlines in all TV networks across China, since only the Chinese media was allowed into The Lodge.

Barely had the meeting ended, the Chinese media flashed reports, 'Kevin Rudd promotes China's role in the IMF.'

11:52 AM, March 28, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Responding to why the Australian media was kept in the dark about such an important meeting, Rudd told The Australian ,"It was a private meeting between the two. It is not the prime minister of Australia's role to put out a press release announcing what every visiting politician is doing."

Why invite the Chinese media if it's a private meeting?

11:54 AM, March 28, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull yesterday dropped any pretence of subtlety, branding Rudd the "spokesman for China" and a "travelling advocate" for Beijing. Expect more of this populist rhetoric.

11:57 AM, March 28, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kevin Rudd keeps great company -

HIV blood cover-up.

Li Changchun was Communist Party Secretary in Henan Province from 1992 to 1998. At that time, a state-run programme of buying blood was promoted to poor farmers. Badly run and unhygienic, the programme turned to disaster when HIV began to surface in donors and receivers. Figures of those affected remain obscure, but it is estimated that at least one million people could have been infected.
A campaign of secrecy was immediately set in place “all to protect one man”, said Frenchman Pierre Haski, author of a book on the Henan AIDS disaster called Le Sang de la Chine (The Blood of China).
That man was Li Changchun, who has never been held accountable.
Only one man was charged, reported Hamish McDonald, Fairfax’s China correspondent at the time, and that was for leaking information to a Beijing NGO.
“All those widely regarded as culpable have gone on to receive promotions and perks,” he wrote.
As head of propaganda since 1998, Mr Li has been in a good position to ensure the cover-up sticks.

12:03 PM, March 28, 2009

 
Anonymous newswatch said...

Herald Sun:

Greg Sheridan says Kevin Rudd got a far cooler reception from Barack Obama than reported:

At one point the US President was supposed to host our Prime Minister for lunch during his Washington visit. The President was too busy, so the lunch duties went instead to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.... Rudd travelled 10,000km to see Obama but Obama chose to spend no more than the more or less minimum time that any Australian prime minister would get with the President.

This is actually a significant setback for Rudd.... (I)t is hard to imagine any US president cancelling a lunch with John Howard and this not being reported as a serious snub.

And there’s this wise warning:
Rudd is also in very grave danger of making a fatal miscalculation in the way he handles China. Everyone knows Rudd speaks Mandarin and knows quite a lot about China. But he is seriously overdoing it. He looks obsessive and a bit plaintive in the way he is always promoting China internationally. It is Rudd’s job to talk up Australia, not to talk up China.

1:11 PM, March 28, 2009

 
Anonymous newswatch said...

The Australian

China's iron-fisted PR

March 26, 2009

KEVIN Rudd's semi-secret meeting on Saturday with Li Changchun, the Chinese politburo member in charge of propaganda, media and ideology, is one of the most bizarre episodes of his prime ministership. It is almost certainly more stupid than sinister, but it does raise legitimate questions about Chinese influence in Australia. Li is ranked No.5 in China's nine-member ruling politburo standing committee. Rudd welcomed Li and the accompanying Chinese media to the Lodge in Canberra but didn't tell the Australian people about it.

Li's visit was reported on Chinese television, but there is no guarantee that Australia's small and very busy group of correspondents in China would have picked up the story, and its bizarre lack of visibility in Australia, if this paper's Cameron Stewart had not reported it.

The day after Li's visit Rudd went out of his way on TV to call for reform of the global financial system so that China gets more influence. I don't believe that in any sinister way Rudd is doing the bidding of the Chinese Government, but nothing is more likely to reinforce such an interpretation than the weird behaviour regarding Li's meeting.

Li's visit should occasion a serious examination of the exercise of Chinese soft power in Australia. It can benefit from as much transparency and public scrutiny as possible.

Members of Li's delegation, and presumably Li himself, as well as other Chinese officials, have been involved in an intensive round of lobbying and briefing in recent days. They seem to have three central messages for Australians. We must not support Tibet's Dalai Lama. We must support the Chinalco bid for a large stake in Australian miner Rio Tinto. And we should know that Chinalco, though wholly owned by the Chinese Government, is an independent commercial entity run at more than arm's length from the Chinese Government.

If you notice some tension between the second and third propositions, perhaps you are not alone. However, the chutzpah of the Chinese official position is remarkable.

Just as they are telling us Chinalco is not directly related to the Chinese Government, the former president of Chinalco, Xiao Yaqing, has been appointed to the Chinese cabinet. China's belief that it can simply assert its position, no matter how obviously ridiculous, and Australians will ultimately accept it is disconcerting, to say the least.

The absolute and deafening silence of the Opposition, Barnaby Joyce excepted, on this or on any issue that demands a sense of values or of geo-strategic direction means the debate is not joined in our political process. This whole dynamic should be the subject of vigorous, freewheeling debate and searching media scrutiny.

In the end, the decision on Chinalco, though notionally Wayne Swan's, will be Rudd's alone. And it will be a key test of whether our somewhat Sinocentric Prime Minister is capable of saying no to the Chinese on something they really want.

The broader exercise of Chinese power in Australia should be a preoccupation of the media.

Chinalco is just one example, though it is instructive. Chinalco gave $250,000 to the Australia China Business Council to produce reports on the benefits of Chinese investment in Australia. It has signed up as a corporate sponsor of the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

More generally, the Chinese Government has sponsored the creation of four Confucius Institutes at Australian universities. Former Australian consul general in Hong Kong and University of Sydney visiting professor Jocelyn Chey has labelled the institutes as propaganda vehicles for the Chinese Communist Party. She certainly does not regard them as the equivalent of broad-ranging cultural organisations such as Germany's Goethe Institutes or the Alliance Francaise. She argues that their presence at Australian universities is problematic.

Sponsoring think tanks and university organisations is, of course, perfectly normal. There do seem to be much more ruthless examples of Chinese power in Australia, however.

Last year there were quite serious assaults by pro-Beijing demonstrators against pro-Tibetan demonstrators in several Australian cities when the Olympic torch relay was held. The Chinese embassy helped organise the demonstrations. Would we accept that behaviour from any other embassy inAustralia?

When I asked the office of Foreign Minister Stephen Smith about this, a spokesperson said: "The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade does not agree that the actions of the Chinese embassy in facilitating the attendance of Chinese students at the Olympic torch relay was a breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Prior to the relay taking place, senior officials from DFAT called in the Chinese ambassador to discuss aspects of the relay. The ambassador was told that under no circumstances were the students or Chinese community to have a security role."

Even that perplexing statement seems to accept that the Chinese ambassador has a legitimate political role in controlling the actions of the Chinese community and Chinese students. No foreign embassy in Australia should have any role agitating among any group within Australia at all.

These incidents have to be seen, too, in the light of the testimony of Chinese defector Chen Yonglin, formerly a Chinese consul in Sydney. When he defected in 2005, Chen alleged that Beijing had 1000 agents in Australia, mostly working on monitoring and controlling Chinese students here. The Chinese Government told us Chen was talking nonsense, but it was the Chinese Government that, by appointing Chen, had previously told us to take him seriously.

Certainly China has greatly increased conventional espionage directed at Australian military, political, commercial and industrial targets in recent years.

Because the Chinese Government runs such an integrated and ruthless global operation in pursuit of power, it is legitimate to consider all these things together, especially when the key doubt about Chinalco is whether it will act in an authentically commercial fashion. Rudd's strange meeting with Li can only exacerbate those doubts.

1:14 PM, March 28, 2009

 
Anonymous newswatch said...

Sunday Telegraph:

Helen Liu 'spy' storm widens

March 29, 2009

Rudd, Howard have met Lui

"Rudd had private dinner with her"

THE Chinese-Australian woman at the centre of a top-level espionage inquiry has met both Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and former PM John Howard, it has been revealed.

Mr Rudd is believed to have attended a private dinner in Brisbane in 2004, where he met and talked at length in Mandarin with Helen Liu.

Ms Liu is at the centre of allegations that the nation's top spy organisation, the highly-secretive Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), tapped into the laptop of Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, without his knowledge.

The DSD allegedly discovered Ms Liu's bank account details in Mr Fitzgibbon's computer.

The Minister, who denies any wrongdoing, rents a Canberra flat from Ms Liu, a family friend for more than 16 years.

The Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, Mr Ian Carnell, has now launched a formal investigation into claims that DSD spied on the minister and all "related matters".

It's now alleged that Mr Rudd attended the 2004 dinner with Ms Liu, at the invitation of another major ALP donor and known Labor supporter, Brisbane property developer Maha Sinnathamby, whose personal fortune is estimated at $571 million.

A spokesman for Mr Sinnathamby confirmed yesterday he had known Mr Rudd for more than 20 years and had dined privately with him on a number of occasions, as well as at numerous larger public functions.

But the spokesman said Mr Sinnathamby could "not recall" the 2004 dinner allegedly attended by both Ms Liu and Mr Rudd.

The spokesman said Mr Sinnathamby knew Mr Rudd personally, but he knew Treasurer, Wayne Swan "much better".

A spokesman for Mr Rudd refused to deny the claims he had dined with Ms Liu in 2004, saying only: "The Prime Minister attends hundreds of functions and meets thousands of people every year."

The undated photograph of Mr Howard with Ms Liu appears to have been taken at a public function. Mr Howard is known to have enduring and good relations with the Sydney Chinese business community.

He had a large number of Chinese residents in his former seat of Bennelong. Mr Sinnathamby is a major ALP donor, contributing more than $70,000 to the party over the last decade.

But the Liberal Party has also long accepted donations from Chinese-born business figures.

These have included Dr Chau Chak Wing who gave $1 million to the Coalition and almost $500,000 to the ALP in the last financial year.

Legislation aimed at banning foreign donations was voted down in the Federal Parliament by the Coalition and Independent Senator Steve Fielding only last month.

NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said there is a growing Chinese influence in Australian companies, particularly extractive industries.

"We've got no way of stopping a continuation of these wealthy Chinese bankrolling a string of politicians and exerting their influence," she said.

Dr Chau Chak Wing, a Hong Kong-based property developer, is understood to have been a confidant of Mr Howard, former NSW premier Bob Carr and Mr Rudd.

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said last week he was also concerned about large donations from China.

"In the marriage between the Australian people and the wealth of our nation, the Labor Party is having an affair with China and trying to pass it off as they're just good friends," he said.

Australian Securities and Investment Corporation documents show Ms Liu's Australian company, Australia China Investments, is half-owned by Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, one of the four major financial arms of the Chinese Government.

She has been photographed with former Chinese premier Li Peng in Sydney in 2002.

It has also been revealed that defence officials may have alerted the Government to security concerns over Mr Fitzgibbon's relationship with Ms Liu.

The Prime Minister's office is refusing to reveal whether defence personnel told government staff there were security concerns over the relationship.

Mr Rudd's spokeswoman said the matter was not raised with the Prime Minister's office, but refused to comment when asked whether defence security officials raised concerns with anyone else in the Government.

The Age newspaper reported on Saturday that defence security officials had done just that with Mr Rudd's office some months ago, but no action was taken.

Labor Party figures have speculated whether the real source of the leaked dirt file on Mr Fitzgibbon was a disgruntled former staffer and not upset Defence Department officials.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland issued a statement Friday, saying ASIO had "no information relating to Ms Helen Liu which would have given rise to any security concern regarding her activities or associations".

Asked by The Sunday Telegraph whether Ms Liu had been investigated by ASIO and cleared, Mr McClelland declined to comment further.

Mr Fitzgibbon has rented a Canberra house from Ms Liu at a market rate and she paid for his visit to China in 2002 and 2005 - trips he initially did not declare on the parliamentary register of MPs' pecuniary interests.

Mr Rudd, who is visiting Washington and attending a G20 meeting in London, has reprimanded Mr Fitzgibbon for failing to register the trips, but is sticking by him with the warning that he expects him to "do better".

Defence Department secretary Nick Warner said on Friday that an initial Defence Security Authority inquiry had found no Defence spying operation targeting Mr Fitzgibbon or Ms Liu.

The Australian Chinese community is divided on Ms Liu. Some say she is highly regarded and generous; others say she is not well-known and has not donated to community charities.

11:32 PM, March 28, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's this got to do with Toowoomba's water supply or am I missing something

9:35 PM, March 29, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tanks are made in China?

1:25 AM, March 30, 2009

 
Anonymous newswatch said...

The Australian:

I'll let the factional boss take up the story: members of the NSW Right were horrified to see the control that Gillard (and the Victorian Left) had in deciding the ministry (witness Fitzgibbon, Simon Crean, Kim Carr, Warren Snowdon, Brendan O'Connor - all Gillard supporters who would not have even spoken to Rudd when Latham was leader).

Fitzgibbon, seen as closer to the Victorian hard Left (especially Carr and Gillard) due to his support of Latham and Gillard, played a role in destabilising Beazley, but is not trusted by the NSW Right, which cannot tolerate somebody who regularly schemes with Carr. Fitzgibbon is aware of this and has been growing closer to Gillard in the hope she will provide protection.

The insider analysis nominated Rudd's parliamentary secretary and the organising force behind the NSW Right, senator Mark Arbib, as the man with his eye on Fitzgibbon's job. Arbib has told colleagues in the past week the idea of the Right leaking the Liu story against Fitzgibbon is bullshit and says he has nothing but praise for the difficult job Fitzgibbon is doing in trying circumstances.

Arbib is smart enough to know that if Fitzgibbon were to lose his job over this episode, the implications for Rudd could be dire. Not only would Fitzgibbon, who helped Rudd to the prime ministership, have vengeance on his mind, but Gillard would be alienated as well: a dangerously de-stablising combination in the longer term. No wonder Rudd is furiously cultivating the NSW Right on his own behalf through Arbib. It's what's known as an insurance policy.

But based on his soundings within the caucus this week, Fitzgibbon needs some reassurance. And here's another thought. If DSD was the original source of the leaks, how to explain the claims that subsequently surfaced about Fitzgibbon's dealings with his brother, a health lobbyist. Hardly the stuff of national security.

As mentioned above, Fitzgibbon was close to Latham, in fact he was the best man at Latham's wedding. The former Labor leader wrote in his notorious diaries: "I expect shit from the Tories and their dancing bears in the media. But why does the worst stuff, the bits that maim, always come from our own side? Over the years I've believed too much in this show; that's why the personal crap hurts and bewilders me, cuts me to the core. I talk about the cause of Labor, but quite frankly the culture of caucus is killing me."

Fitzgibbon might care to consult Latham. Except they have fallen out so bitterly, they no longer talk. It's a great business. My advice to Liu would be to stay out of it.

10:26 AM, March 30, 2009

 
Anonymous newswatch said...

The Australian:

Helen Liu has strong links with Chinese army

March 31, 2009

THE wealthy Chinese businesswoman who befriended Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon and showered him with gifts is a leading member of an organisation with strong ties to the Chinese military.

Helen Liu, who was born in the northeastern Chinese province of Shandong and is now an Australian citizen, is a member of the editorial committee of Shandong Ming Jia.

The organisation, which translates as Shandong Celebrities Family, promotes the work of leading people from Shandong.

It has extensive membership within the China's military, the Peoples Liberation Army, especially its logistics division.

Ms Liu has attracted enormous attention after allegations reported last week that Mr Fitzgibbon had been the subject of a covert spy operation by officials from his own defence department because of his relationship with her.

According to the claims, departmental officials regarded Ms Liu as a possible security risk.
Ms Liu, who has had many property development interests in China and Australia, is among members of the Shandong Celebrities Family network whose activities are regularly covered by its own colour magazine.

Of the past 10 cover photos, three have featured senior army officers - two men and one woman. Calligraphy, which is a strong feature of the organisation's website, was written by a former commissar of the PLA's logistics division.

Shandong is famous as a source of senior soldiers in China.

Ms Liu has also become a prominent representative for the People's Republic in the vast overseas Chinese world - a role that gives her high status back in China.

Mr Fitzgibbon, who describes Ms Liu as a personal friend, met her during a trip to China with his father, former Labor MP Eric Fitzgibbon, in the early 1990s.

Over the years, Mr Fitzgibbon has introduced Ms Liu to Labor MPs at dinners. She paid for two trips Mr Fitzgibbon made to China in 2002 and 2005, which he failed to declare on his parliamentary statement of pecuniary interests until last week.

He rents a townhouse in Canberra owned by her family and last year she gave him a suit, which he subsequently returned.

Ms Liu's many roles in public life, which also include past meetings with Kevin Rudd and John Howard, indicate she is a loyal, trusted and active leader with extensive contact within the Chinese party establishment.

She is vice-chairwoman of the World Federation of Overseas Chinese Associations, which states on its website she is the daughter of "an ordinary cadre" or Communist Party member.

This organisation is administratively based in Hong Kong, but is linked to the Overseas Affairs office of the United Front Ministry of the State Council, China's cabinet. Among its goals are to work towards China's reunification - meaning the assimilation of Taiwan - and to promote Chinese culture. A spokesman said a few years ago it also sought to "expose and criticise" the Falun Gong movement.

News of Ms Liu's meetings with provincial and municipal leaders is frequently published in the domestic Chinese media.

When she visited the northwestern region of Xinjiang, she was photographed being received by a former vice-chairman of the National People's Congress.

She has been praised for donating patriotic education material to schools in areas of China with heavy populations of non-Han Chinese people, such as Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. She also meets the top Chinese leaders who visit Australia, where she was photographed in 2002 toasting Li Peng, the former premier widely considered responsible for the brutality of the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989.

A key goal of the association of which she is vice-chairwoman is to represent Chinese interests internationally.

In pursuing this goal, given the growing intensity of Australia's relationship with China, it was inevitable that she would meet the Prime Minister and Mr Howard.

Ms Liu, whose Chinese name is Haiyan, graduated with a masters degree from one of China's top universities, Qinghua, in Beijing, before migrating to Australia 25 years ago. She is also a member of the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China, which campaigns for the return of Taiwan to the People's Republic.

At its anniversary celebrations in Beijing, in 2006, the world federation of which she is vice-chairwoman stressed: "There is only one China in the world."

The Chinese media have praised her active role in donating money towards less developed regions of China.

Last year, she contributed $6million for victims of the Sichuan earthquake.

Chinese media have reported Ms Liu owns a $140 million property in Hainan Island, and $20 million worth of property, including 55 villas and four office buildings, in Jiujiang city in Jiangxi province.

In Australia, Ms Liu has pursued shopping centre and hotel investments through companies that include Australia China Investments and Diamond Hills Holdings.

In 1997, she fought a Federal Court battle against a fellow company director, Jian Xu, a former boyfriend, who claimed he was entitled to a share of proceeds after property sales.

Ms Liu owns a large residence at exclusive Double Bay, in Sydney's eastern suburbs. She bought the six-bedroom, four bathroom property for $4.7million in 2003.

According to neighbours, she has been away from her Sydney home for the past three months.

10:49 AM, March 31, 2009

 

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