Liberal MP Gladys Liu has declined to explain her involvement in a mysterious $105,000 donation to the Liberal Party by a Chinese-owned company she worked for, spruiking electric buses.
The donation, which was one of the largest from an individual company to the Victorian Liberal Party in 2015, is detailed in filings to the Australian Electoral Commission.
Known as the Liberal Party’s “million-dollar woman”, Ms Liu’s great success as party fundraiser prompted her to spruik her record when she sought preselection for the seat of Chisholm in 2019.
“I have raised over $1 million for the party by organising events both large and small, centrally for the party as well as locally for MPs and candidates,” Ms Liu wrote.
But Ms Liu declined to answer questions about whether she acted as a go-between in organising the $105,000 Brighsun EV donation, whether it was for an auction or fundraising dinner she attended, or whether it related to a fundraising dinner at Melbourne restaurant Zinc, in 2015, attended by then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
“At all times, I have sought to comply with relevant state and federal disclosure laws,” she told The New Daily.
The mysterious donation has emerged after Ms Liu indicated she was conducting an audit of her involvements with Chinese organisations with links to Communist-backed foreign influence operations and her fundraising activities.
According to the Liberal Party, a company called Brighsun New Energy made a $105,000 donation in 2015-16 listed as “other”, rather than a cash donation, suggesting it was an auction item or a fundraising dinner.
In the same filings, Ms Liu is recorded as donating $39,000 but is listed as “other”, suggesting the funds were money for tickets to a fundraising dinner or an auction item rather than cash.
At the time of the $105,000 donation, Ms Liu worked for Brighsun as a communications director, organising media events that included Liberal frontbencher Greg Hunt who held the climate change portfolio at the time.
According to ASIC records, Brighsun Electrical Vehicles Group was registered in September 2015, and listed its current registered office to a house in Hidden Grove Boulevard, Keysborough, Victoria.
The company directors were Kejun Huang and Genjiang Zhang, two Chinese-born investors based in Zhejiang, China.
Around the same time of the donation, Brighsun’s CEO Kejun (Kevin) Huang was photographed with the former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
Ms Liu and Liberal frontbencher Mr Hunt also appear in photographs attending events highlighting the electric vehicles around the same period, that were used to promote the venture and on the Chinese company’s official website.
Mr Turnbull told The New Daily that he did not recall how he met Chinese businessman Mr Huang, or whether it was at a Liberal fundraiser.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office referred queries to Ms Liu’s office, which declined to address the substance of the questions on fundraising or the $105,000.
Ms Liu organised events to promote Brighsun electric buses in Melbourne in October 2015, securing a Guinness World Record for the bus travelling a whole day or interstate without having to find somewhere to recharge.
“We believe it will bring a whole new concept of public transport with no pollution to Australia and to the world,” Ms Liu said.
The Liberal Party held a $1100-a-head event at Federation Square in the same month, that was said to have raised $750,000 for the party’s Victorian division.
Among the items auctioned at the event were dinners with Mr Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that sold for more than $100,000 each to private donors.
Ms Liu was unable to confirm whether or not Brighsun EV representatives attended this dinner or bid on any auction items.
The Herald Sun has previously reported the winning bids for the dinners with Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop came from two tables brought to the function by Ms Liu.
The newspaper reported that the dinners never happened after intelligence agencies raised security concerns over the winning bidders, and the Liberal Party was forced to refund more than $300,000 – a claim that Ms Liu and the Liberal Party deny.
Liberal frontbencher Stuart Robert said Ms Liu was double-checking her declarations on donations and past links to organisations.
“The issue isn’t the quantum, the issue is the declaration. Transparency is important in our democracy,” Mr Robert told Sky News.
“I’m satisfied that she is going through her associations. She’s double-checking that to ensure that they are declared or that she removed herself from them,” he said.
But Labor leader Anthony Albanese said she would make a full statement to Parliament and called on the Prime Minister Scott Morrison to stop implying that questions about Ms Liu’s activities were “racist”.
“It was quite outrageous last week that he said this issue was about race,” Mr Albanese said.
“The only person who has said that this is about race is the Prime Minister.
“Australia has national security issues. The fact is these have to be debated soberly. They need to be debated in a way that is mature.
“And what we see from the Prime Minister is trying to hide scrutiny from the same bloke who referred to ‘Shanghai Sam’ [Dastyari] on no less than 17 different occasions.”