SUBJECTS: ASIO reports of Chinese espionage; Westpac Bank offences.
SAM ARMYTAGE, HOST: Now, ASIO says it is taking seriously claims that a Chinese espionage ring tried to plant an agent in Federal Parliament. The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald are reporting the Chinese intelligence offered $1 million to back a Liberal Party member to run in a seat in Melbourne’s east.
DAVID KOCH, HOST: Now the man at the centre of the claims, car dealer Nick Zhao, was found dead in a Melbourne hotel room earlier this year. Liberal MP Andrew Hastie is calling for a full investigation into Mr Zhao’s death.
ARMYTAGE: Let’s bring in Nationals MP, Barnaby Joyce, and Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon – morning to you both gentlemen. Barnaby, these are big claims made overnight. Are you surprised by this that a Chinese espionage ring apparently tried to plant a spy in the Liberal Party in parliament?
BARNABY JOYCE, MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND: Well, obviously we are seeing a very active China and unfortunately, Sam, I think we are seeing a transition of the whole world from a Liberal rules-based place that we’ve had the benefit of for 100 or 200 or so years into one that an autocratic form of government presides and the strong will survive and the weak and naive will be crushed, and I think what we are seeing is – I don’t doubt it – that I know that the Chinese have in one way or another been trying to infiltrate our parliament, whether it be online and whether it’s by direct inducements to politicians – Sam Dastyari being noted as one. And this is something that we’ve just got to accept and we’ve got to be strong, and we’ve got to be resolute, and we cannot be naive, and we’ve got to realise that this is the new world order we are living in. I believe Mr Zhao’s death should be investigated.
KOCH: Yeah, Joel, apart from saying it’s actively investigating, does ASIO need to make any findings public and, I suppose, it spies on China does it? ASIO, should it be declaring our interests in China? I thought it’s what all spy agencies did.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Good morning team. Of course we do hope – I mean there seems to be one relatively unknown single source for this very large story, so we hope it is not just coming from someone who has watched too many spy movies. But obviously the allegations are very, very serious and it’s a bit almost churly to be calling on the investigation because of course an investigation will be held and so it should. I mean, these are again very serious allegations about putting someone, a plant, into the Federal Parliament.
ARMYTAGE: It’s a bit more than spy. ASIO’s has put out a press release overnight which they never really do. This is more than the average spy movie, these allegations.
FITZGIBBON: I’m not playing it down, I’m just making the point that there seems to be one single character in this movie, but of course it should be taken very seriously. And I have no doubt that security agencies will take it seriously. In fact, I will be very, very surprised if the story has significant weight if the security agencies weren’t already – haven’t been well aware of this situation for some time.
JOYCE: I think it’s ridiculous that you’re calling it churlish and there’s not one, there’s Mr Zhao who is dead and there is Mr Liqiang who’s – Mr Wang Liqiang who was on 60 minutes last night. I don’t think it is proper to call it churlish, I think you have to be completely on the balls of your toes and accept that certainly there will be a coronial investigation but it needs to go further than that and the actions and the statements by ASIO, who are incredibly discrete in what they say, says that we should be thinking it is a lot more than churlish.
FITZGIBBON: Can I just say too, the point I was making there – the point I was making there is it’s churlish to call for an investigation when of course there will be investigations that obviously – that should be obvious to all and suddenly they are very serious allegations and, of course, investigations will be held.
KOCH: Alright, and there are growing calls for the Westpac Board to be sacked over allegations of breached anti-money laundering and terrorism laws a whopping 23 million times. Barnaby, the PM has described these offences as appalling and distressing; should the Westpac board go?
JOYCE: Well, let’s remember that some of these payments are obviously not directed to the directors or the CEO, but the payment themselves doing such things as child pornography and the exploitation of children. Now, I believe that the directors and the chairman and the CEO get paid multi-million dollar salaries and with that comes with immense responsibility. So, I’m not completely sympathetic to the idea, I’ve heard that they want to say the CEO can change and they’ll lose some of their bonuses. I think it is a lot more serious than that, 23 million accounts of not abiding by the rules. They’ve got to accept that with the big pay comes big responsibility and they might be before the chopping block.
ARMYTAGE: Yeah, Joel, we’ve just been through a Banking Royal Commission. Do you think the average Australian is just going ‘what is going on in banking, still?
FITZGIBBON: That’s absolutely what they are saying, Sam, and they are still waiting for this government to fully respond to the recommendations of the Banking Royal Commission. And yet, while they are waiting, they are seeing another scandal and what this is, of course, highlighting is the contrast between the way this government treats the banks when they break the rules and their witch hunt on unions, unions who are defending the rights of workers ensuring they receive a fair days pay for a fair days work. And Scott Morrison attacks the unions and seeks to deregister them for misdemeanours through legislation, but when the banks play up it’s, of course, nothing for me to do here, a bit of a lecture from the Prime Minister but ultimately it’s up to the board and the shareholders. Well, contrast and the double standards are…
KOCH: So you are saying he should sanction the board like he would do a union?
FITZGIBBON: Well, I ask him to be consistent. When he talks about his ensuring integrity bill, he likes to talk about corporate equivalence. That means in his mind at least, treating unions the same way as we treat corporations. Now, we know about the *inaudible* in that given the different roles of those two institutions. But he can’t say one thing one day and something else another day. There’s got to be some consistency here and I think people can see the inconsistency and the double standards here.
JOYCE: I think there is a difference here. Obviously there is knowledge from people, such as Mr Setka, as to exactly what is going on. There should have been a more prudent oversight by the CEOs and the board. That is the predominate difference and it’s not one or the other, it’s both that should be brought into account. And one of the things we can say is that we have discovered, or have discovered these improprieties resulting from their oversight and for unions, they should accept that you can’t go onto building sites and break peoples’ arms and stand over and use, you know, bikies to stand over people and threaten people at school because their parents work at a building site. That also is something that should be dealt with in the most severe manner.
KOCH: Alright gents, thank you for that, we will have to leave it there – appreciate it.