News National Chinese billionaire paid $55,000 for lunch with Bill Shorten

Chinese billionaire paid $55,000 for lunch with Bill Shorten

Bill Shorten
Bill Shorten's spokesman says he has "always acted in accordance with the advice of security agencies". Photo: ABC
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Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo paid $55,000 to have lunch with Bill Shorten in October 2015, documents uncovered by the ABC reveal.

The revelation comes as Mr Shorten faces pressure to expel senator Sam Dastyari from the Labor Party over his links to Mr Huang, who intelligence agencies warn is closely linked to the Chinese Government.

Mr Huang attended the function organised by a Labor fundraising arm with Mr Shorten in Sydney on October 5, in the midst of a heated political debate about Labor’s opposition to the China-Australia trade deal.

The donation was disclosed with the Australian Electoral Commission but the specific details were not known until a local Sydney council forced Mr Huang’s company, Yuhu Group, to list the benefactor as part of a property development application.

The Yuhu Group disclosure statement lodged with the City of Ryde states the donation was for a “boardroom lunch with Hon. Bill Shorten, ALP National”.

The donation was made through a linked company, Mandarin International Investments Pty Ltd, which is registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) at the same north Sydney location as Mr Huang’s Yuhu Group.

The meeting occurred during the same year the Australia Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) director Duncan Lewis warned major political parties about Mr Huang’s links to the Chinese Government.

It is not clear whether the meeting occurred before or after the warning.

Mr Huang’s application for Australian citizenship has been stalled by the intelligence agency.

A spokesman for Mr Shorten said he had “always acted in accordance with the advice of security agencies”.

At the time of the meeting, Mr Shorten faced a coordinated union campaign against the trade deal and vocal opposition from backbenchers worried about Australian jobs.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions held town hall meetings to condemn the deal and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) warned it would allow Chinese companies to ship in overseas workers and steal local jobs.

The ABC understands the trade deal was discussed at the lunch.

Huang’s long history of donations

One day after the October 20 donation, Mr Shorten announced he had changed his mind and would support the “speedy passage” of the trade deal after securing “satisfactory legal protections that were not previously disclosed”.

A Labor spokesman said the change of policy was determined by the national interest, Australian jobs and the Labor caucus.

“Labor campaigned for a stronger China Free Trade Agreement that protected local jobs, and we eventually pressured the Government to cave into our position,” he said.

News of the $50,000 donation comes as Labor frontbenchers say Senator Dastyari’s career is going nowhere due to his dealings with Mr Huang.

The property developer’s company paid Senator Dastyari’s personal legal bills and was pictured beside him at a press conference held for Chinese media, where he contradicted his party’s position on the South China Sea.

Senator Dastyari has faced renewed pressure to quit Parliament after reports he warned Mr Huang his phone was probably being tapped by US agencies in a secret face-to-face meeting last October.

Mr Huang has a long history of donations to both major parties and his relationship with politicians has featured prominently during debate on the Federal Government bid to ban foreign donations and create a foreign lobbyist register.

Labor stopped accepting donations from foreign entities including Mr Huang earlier this year and has called on the Coalition to do the same.

A spokesperson for Yuhu Group said any donations made were been declared as required.