Amidst growing concern about China’s meddling with the country’s political institutions, Australia’s former trade Minister is reported to have received $880,000 a year (around US$660,000) from a Chinese company closely linked to the Communist party regime. While the former official vehemently denies being a foreign agent, Chinese state media ironically has already come to his defense by prominently featuring his statements lashing back at his critics and the government’s new foreign interference laws.
Australia’s Fairfax Media and Four Corners program on ABC reported in June that Andrew Robb, who served as the country’s Minister for Trade and Investment under the Liberal Party government from 2013 to 2016, has been receiving an $880,000 yearly payment from the Landbridge Group, a Chinese company known for its controversial acquisition of Australia’s Port of Darwin in 2015.
Fairfax has now reported that Andrew Robb’s “consulting” contract with the Chinese firm is so vague and ill-defined that he gets paid even if he does nothing on the surface. The former trade minister, who was the architect of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement during his tenure, reportedly started to receive the Chinese payment shortly after he left parliament in 2016.
In recent months, the significant extent of the Chinese Communist Party’s control and influence over Australia’s political institutions, businesses, academia, and the Chinese students there have been widely reported by Australian media. Under public pressure, Malcolm Turnbull’s government has moved to introduce an expansion of the existing treason laws to curb foreign influence in Australian politics.
The proposed new laws, which are facing an uphill battle in the Australian Senate’s upcoming vote, include a ban on foreign donations to political parties, as well as a system to register lobbyists and agents of influence working on behalf of foreign governments.
On Twitter, Robb vehemently denies being an agent for China and declares that the new legislation “doesn’t apply” to him. He also said to Australian media that the legislation was a “political stunt,” saying he was “sick of being hammered for being treasonous.”
“There is at the present time, and has been for 12 months or more, an inordinate attempt to worry people about China,” said Robb.
Ironically, however, Robb’s statements lashing back at his critics and the proposed legislation have already been prominently reported by Xinhua news agency, the Chinese regime’s official mouthpiece.
Quoting the former Australian official who has now turned lobbyist working for a Chinese firm, Xinhua says that the new laws would “unfairly expose hardworking Aussies” who are building the country’s relationships with China.
Xinhua also quoted Robb as saying that “the scaremongering needs to stop” so that it does not jeopardize China’s “prosperity and willingness” to work closely with Australia, its government, and local businesses.
It has been noted that Ye Cheng, the owner of the Landbridge Group, is a member of China’s People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political organ controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and commonly used to coordinate propaganda and “United Front” operations—initiatives in which organizations or individuals who are not part of the CCP are recruited to advance the CCP’s interests, often unknowingly.
Previously, Landbridge Group’s acquisition of the Port of Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory has been widely criticized for its potential risks to Australia’s national security. Ye Cheng has acknowledged that the acquisition was part of Beijing’s “One Belt One Road” initiative that aims at expanding China’s influence throughout the region. Andrew Robb has advocated for Australia to fully embrace China’s initiative, arguing that it poses no threat to Australia.
From: The Epoch Times