Political influence

Suspicions that an arm of the Chinese government attempted to assist a Melbourne businessman become elected to Parliament – presumably as an undercover agent – has sent shock waves through the Canberra establishment as well as the nation.
The fact that this man was later found dead in a hotel room after allegedly approaching Australian officials about the matter only adds a further layer of intrigue.
It appears to be part of a James Bond plot.
Any covert influence exerted by a foreign power on the development of public policy in Australia must be called out for what it is and rejected outright.
But before the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth gets too out of hand, we should take this opportunity to examine those who already covertly influence the goings-on in Federal Parliament, rather than looking exclusively to our northern neighbors with an accusatory eye.
The fact is that politicians are influenced by a host of outside ‘agents’ – all with self interest at heart. Any Chinese-backed MP will do the bidding of their master in just the same way as another MP who is closely aligned with a big political donor.
Massive mining companies, for example, donate to political parties for no other reason than to buy access to those in power in order to tilt the development of policy in their favor.
If the national government is so outraged and righteous about protecting its integrity from outside meddling, it should introduce stronger legislation dealing with political donations.
They could either be banned outright or the rules changed to enable the public to see – in real time – which party is receiving donations, exactly when they were made, who gave it, how it was given (cash in an Aldi shopping bag) and how much.
Until substantial changes are made, political parties send the signal they are happy to be influenced by those who give them money … but not a foreign government.
Governments should rightly be concerned about covert international influence just as they should be alert to the pressure exerted by business leaders whose only responsibility is to their shareholders and who have questionable interest in the common good.

For the full report, see the print issue of The Courier.

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