Labor politicians Chris Minns, Chris Bowen and Sam Dastyari at an event in 2015. (Facebook: Chris Minns)
A rising Labor Party star has received a $ 5,000 payment as part of a six-figure donation to the Labor Party by an association linked to a Sydney businessman with deep connections to the Chinese Communist Party, ABC may reveal.
- According to an ALP tax bill, the $ 5,000 payment was taken from a $ 100,000 grant from a community association led by Frank Chou to federal labor health spokesman Chris Bowen in 2013.
- Chou is one of Sydney's highest-level Chinese-Australian entrepreneurs and has long-lasting connections with Beijing's influence-trafficking machine, the United Front Works Department.
- He tells ABC that the donation may have been made on behalf of one or more "business friends," which could be a violation of federal election law.
The $ 5,000 payment to Labor MP Chris Minns also raised questions for federal health care spokesman Chris Bowen, who was the beneficiary of the $ 100,000 grant from which Minns's payment was withdrawn.
The donation and payment were the latest in a series of worrying allegations about the influence of the Chinese Communist Party on Australian politicians through large donations from Beijing-backed businessmen, including the occasional payment of personal expenses of politicians.
Two-party officials described payment as unusual, while others said the display of old incidents was an example of how the Labor branch became toxic when it chose a new parliamentary leader.
Mr Minns is running against fellow Labor MP Jodi McKay for the leadership of the NSW parliamentary party, promising a "new approach."
The results of a leadership ballot will be known later this month.
The donation and payment were discussed internally by the Labor Party, but remained confidential for six years, until ABC recently obtained a couple of internal ALP invoices.
Invoices detailing the $ 100,000 donation for Mr. Bowen's 2013 re-election campaign at McMahon's federal headquarters and subsequent payment of $ 5,000 for Mr. Minns.
Chris Minns appeared on a plaque wishing people a happy year of the rooster in 2017. (Facebook: Chris Minns)
Adding to the mystery, the entrepreneur registered as the customer's reference to the donation – Chinese community leader and entrepreneur Frank Chou – told ABC that he does not remember the Teo Chew Association making the donation.
He told ABC he thought it might have been given by one or more "business friends" under the name of Teo Chew Association.
The first ALP invoice registered the donation of $ 100,000. It was held on April 19, 2013 by the Australian Chinese Teo Chew Association, with the reference of the customer "Frank Chou".
Chou is the president of the Teo Chew Association, an organization that represents an ethnolinguistic group of immigrants from the Chinese province of Guangdong.
"Donation to Chris Bowen's campaign – to be transferred to the Chris Bowen fund," noted the invoice.
In a written statement to ABC, Mr. Bowen said: "My understanding is that the donation has been fully declared in accordance with the law."
NSW ALP general secretary Kaila Murnain declined to speak to ABC but said through a spokeswoman that all donations were accepted under the electoral law.
Mr. Bowen acknowledged that he met Mr. Chou "on a few occasions," but had nothing to do with him for several years.
Mr. Bowen's McMahon federal headquarters have a large Chinese-speaking population and he has participated in various Chinese community events and mingled with community leaders – including some linked to the Chinese Communist Party.
He received gifts from one of these leaders. Two months before the $ 100,000 donation to Bowen's campaign, he said he had received a 2002 bottle of Penfolds Grange from Huang Xiangmo.
Wine bottle presented by Xiangmo to Bowen
Huang is a Chinese billionaire who has had his citizenship application denied and was barred from returning to Australia earlier this year because of concerns about his ties to Beijing.
The second bill related to the payment to Mr. Minns. He recorded that 10 days after NSW Labor received a $ 100,000 donation to Mr. Bowen, he authorized the release of $ 5,000 to Mr. Minns for "incurred expenses (sic) coming home to work on the McMahon campaign ".
The invoice noted that the $ 5,000 was withdrawn from the $ 100,000 Teo Chew donation.
At the time of the donation, Mr. Minns was living in the USA and studying at Princeton University.
Frank Chou speaking at an Australian Council for the Promotion of China's Peaceful Reunification in 2015. (Provided: ACPPRC)
A spokesman for Mr. Minns said the Labor politician was invited back to Australia to become Mr. Bowen's campaign manager.
"Mr. Minns was hired as a salaried employee of the NSW Labor Party, and as far as he knew, his salaries and any associated expenses were paid through the normal job and expense channels of the NSW ALP," the spokesman said.
Mr. Bowen declined to answer a question about whether he was aware of or played a role in the $ 5,000 provided to Mr. Minns. He confirmed that, in conjunction with the headquarters of NSW, he asked Mr. Minns to campaign in 2013.
ABC is not meant to suggest that Mr. Bowen or Mr. Minns engage in illegal conduct, and a spokesman for the NSW ALP said they were aware of the payment of $ 5,000 and no party regulations were violated.
"The expenses were incurred in accordance with the relevant policies of the party at the time," they said.
It is not the first time that money linked to businessmen backed by Beijing raises uncomfortable issues for Australian politicians.
Huang Xiangmo and then Senator Sam Dastyari at a press briefing for the Chinese media in 2016. (Provided)
In 2017, Labor Senator and former Labor Party chief of NSW, Sam Dastyari, resigned from the federal parliament after growing concern about his ties to the Chinese Communist Party through various Chinese entrepreneurs based in Australia.
In 2014, Mr. Dastyari allowed Huang Xiangmo – the same man who presented Mr. Bowen the bottle of Grange – to cover a legal bill.
The following year, a Melbourne businessman, Zhu Minshen, covered an expense of $ 1,670.82 with Dastyari's parliamentary travel budget.
Ernest Wong was until recently a member of the Upper House of Parliament of NSW. For years, he was considered the closest political ally to Huang and the primary fundraiser for the NSW ALP.
Mr Minns best friend, Jamie Clements, was a senior employee of NSW at the time of the $ 5,000 payment.
He left the party a year later, after being convicted of spilling out confidential membership details for a union ally.
Clements now works as a lawyer and advisor to Chinese companies that want to invest in Australia.
At least two of the addresses of the companies in which Mr. Clements previously directed his law firm are owned by Mr. Huang.
Frank Chou (left), Chris Minns (center) and Jamie Clements (right) at the launch of the Australian Community Federation of Shenzhen in November 2016. (ABC news)
ABC has been informed that Clements has been the subject of questions from the anti-corruption body of NSW, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), on an ongoing investigation into a series of donations made in 2015 that may be linked to Mr. Huang.
Until a few months ago, NSW's former Labor Minister Bob Carr headed a study center at Sydney University of Technology with $ 1.8 million of Huang's money.
Former NSW Secretary General Eric Roozendaal left the parliament to work for Huang's Yuhu company.
Relations between the NSW Labor Party and pro-Beijing businessmen like Mr. Huang became so pervasive and controversial until 2017 that MP Andrew Wilkie told ABC that there was clearly an institutional problem.
"I think it reasonable to conclude that so much money has now come from Chinese interests for at least the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party. [that] in essence, China bought the Labor Party of New South Wales, "he said.
& # 39; It is very unusual & # 39 ;: labor insider
ABC spoke to nine federal and state ALP officials, candidates and serving politicians regarding the donation and payment of $ 5,000. All spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive subject.
Chris Minns (front left) and Jodi McKay (in red) at a 2018 gala celebrating 200 years of Chinese Australian migration. (Facebook: Chris Minns)
A member of the ministry said that paying Minns seemed odd.
"These are donations to the party to run campaigns, not to defray the personal expenses of an individual," the MP said.
"It's very unusual," said a former labor official who worked at NSW headquarters at the time of the $ 5,000 payment.
Another deputy said the donation and payment raised questions about the role of Minns as a member of a group of party officials who have for years exercised massive power over the Labor Party of NSW.
"This is not about factions, this is the machine," the official said.
"The machine" is a reference to a group of ALP headquarters figures including Sam Dastyari, Jamie Clements and Chris Minns, who served as secretaries or assistant secretaries of the NSW party in the last decade.
Mr. Bowen and Mr. Minns were fractional allies who became friends while working for the former NSW Minister of Labor, Carl Scully, in the early 2000s.
Authorities from two parties told ABC that the atmosphere in the NSW branch was particularly toxic at the time and they were concerned that old incidents were being used as political weapons in the leadership competition between Minns and McKay.
Chris Bowen endorsed Chris Minns for the NSW labor leadership earlier this month.
(Facebook: Chris Bowen)
Speaking to ABC on the phone, Chou said he does not remember the Teo Mastication Association or himself who donated $ 100,000 to ALP.
"In 2013, I helped the campaigns of the ALP politicians, but I did not donate $ 100,000," he said.
When pressed on the source of the association's gift, he said, "It is possible that my friends asked me to donate to them."
When ABC asked which friends he answered, "businessmen."
"The association has no money, we rely on the donations of others," he said.
He also said he and the Teo Chew Association never made unsolicited donations – they only gave money after being asked by party representatives.
The ABC was unable to establish who, if anyone, of the ALP requested the donation.
If the Teo Chew Association made a donation that was actually someone else's money, it raised questions about whether it could be evidence of straw donations – illegal under Australian electoral law.
"The circumstances surrounding the contribution of the Australian Teo Chew Association to the NSW ALP suggest that it could have been used to conceal the identity of the actual donor," said Joo-Cheong Tham, an expert on electoral law at the University of Melbourne.
"This is particularly worrying because of the association's ties to the Chinese Communist Party government."
During the phone call, Chou, who said he donated to the Labor and Liberal parties, repeatedly referred to political donations as "doing good things."
"We are serving society, politicians are our friends," he said.
"We have relationships and we have affection for each other. When they are running their campaigns and needing support, I will support them.
"We do not do bad things, we do this [donate] in good faith. "
The Teo-Chew Association is one of 81 Chinese community groups that are members of the Australian Council for the Peaceful Promotion of Chinese Reunification (ACPPRC), according to an article published by an associate newspaper of the ACPPRC in 2017.
Huang Xiangmo greets China's President Xi Jinping. Frank Chou is pictured to the left of Xiangmo. (Provided: ACPPRC)
According to a submission to the federal parliament's intelligence and security committee by academic Clive Hamilton and China's researcher Alex Joske, the ACPPRC is "one of the most active and visible arms of the Chinese Communist Party's interference operations in social and political life Australian".
As of March this year, Mr. Chou was listed on the ACPPRC's website as "senior honorary life counselor".
Mr. Huang was chairman of the ACPPRC from 2014 to 2017.
Chou told ABC he was unhappy that Huang had not been allowed to return to Australia because he had done nothing wrong.
Like chinese [immigrants] nobody speaks for us to Australia; Huang just wants the two countries to become friends. This is good for everyone, "he said.
Mr. Chou said that Huang only did "good things" while in Australia. "He is my friend. I can not understand why he was expelled from Australia."
Government and politics,
federal — state-issues,