Shorten, Xiangmo and ASIO Warning

Bill Shorten, the Labor party leader, visited the Chinese tycoon Huang Xiangmo's residence in Mosman even after Duncan Lewis, the ASIO director general, warned representatives of all three major Australian political parties of Chinese meddling in Australian politics. Lewis warned the representatives, including national secretary of the ALP, George Wright, that Beijing is trying to control Australian politics through huge cash donations.

Dastyari and Huang

Huang is embroiled in the middle of a political storm concerning Sam Dastyari's political future. Dastyari is Shorten's confidante and a factional ally. The ASIO notified the political parties in 2015. Shorten visited Xiangmo in March 2016, well after the briefings were done. He went to seek help in funding the advertisements to be taken out for the Labor campaign. The latter was to be done for July 2018-scheduled double dissolution election. All political parties' representatives were explicitly warned about the opaque ties existing between the Huang and the Chinese Communist Party. It is not clear, however, if Shorten was informed by Wright about the concerns raised by ASIO about Huang during the intervening months between the briefing in October 2015 and the Labor head's visit to the tycoon's Sydney mansion.

In Shorten's defense, the ASIO did not personally brief him on the matter prior to the meeting. That only occurred in the latter months of 2016. This happened well after the meeting.

Test of Labor

Dastyari may have warned Huang that his phone could be bugged when the former visited the latter at his residence in 2017. The senator could have suggested that the two discard their phones inside the house and converse outside. Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian Prime Minister, hinted of Senator Dastyari under investigation. When asked for details, the Australian PM became non-committal. He, however, said that these incidents are political matters. He also said that the Australian police are not given any kind of instructions on such operational matters.

The Prime Minister added that the incident is going to test Shorten's character. What more can Dastyari do until Shorten deems himself unfit for holding the Senate post? When questioned by media, Shorten openly admitted to visiting Huang. According to informed sources, he went to request a large amount to fund the Labor party's election activities in the regional electorates.  Shorten's spokesperson said that he has attended a number of functions where Huang was present. The functionary added that Prime Minister Turnbull was also another invitee among many, to such events.

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