Australia investigates politician over Beijing influence allegations

Foreign Affairs

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) conducted an unprecedented raid of the house of a Labor party politician, Shaoquett Moselmane, this morning. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, they were “searching for evidence to support allegations of a Chinese government plot unfolding on Australian soil.”

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Shaoquett Moselmane, member of the New South Wales Parliament in Australia. Photo via China Radio International.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) conducted an unprecedented raid of the house of a Labor party politician, Shaoquett Moselmane, this morning. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, they were “searching for evidence to support allegations of a Chinese government plot unfolding on Australian soil.”

…sources said if sufficient evidence was found, the inquiry could ultimately result in an Australian and world first: a prosecution for foreign interference offences arising from an alleged covert Chinese Communist Party plot to influence a serving politician…

Mr Moselmane’s lawyer arrived during the search and was let into the home by federal agents. The agents searched the house and were seen carrying bags and folders.

The Attorney-General Christian Porter has authorised efforts by ASIO to gather evidence of any person suspected of seeking to influence Mr Moselmane or his staff on behalf of the Chinese government. The step could only be taken if there were reasonable grounds to suspect evidence may be at those properties.

Australia has been on high alert about foreign influence from Beijing since mid-2017, when media investigations revealed avenues of Communist Party influence, often through the United Front Work Department, in both the Labor and Liberal parties. Significant events since then include when:

  • Sam Dastyari, a Labor Party politician, was revealed to have parroted the Communist Party line on the South China Sea after a Beijing-linked donor threatened to withdraw a $400,000 donation to his party. He resigned in disgrace in December 2017.
  • Despite loud protestations by Beijing, and a fierce public debate within Australia, the Australian Senate passed multiple measures aimed at restricting foreign influence in Australian politics in June 2018.
  • Australia applied some of those measures to cancel the permanent residency of Huáng Xiàngmò 黄向墨, an influential lobbyist, in February 2019.

The newest development comes amid a historic low in Australia-China relations, as Beijing has punished Canberra repeatedly for Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s advocating for an international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 in China.