NSW corruption watchdog ICAC has raided the Labor Party’s Sydney HQ over an investigation targeting Chinese donations.
In a blow to the Labor Party brand on the final day of the ALP’s national conference, the ICAC raids prompted federal officials to claim the investigation was “not us”, suggesting it related to NSW state officials.
NSW ALP secretary Kaila Murnain, who was attending the conference, released a statement suggesting the matter related to 2015 donations previously investigated
“NSW Labor is aware of extensive media coverage today of an investigation into historic political donation matters,” the statement said.
“The donations in question were received in 2015 and have been fully investigated by the NSW Electoral Commission with the full cooperation of NSW Labor, including the provision of all relevant documents.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that it related to a Chinese Friends of Labor fundraising dinner in 2015.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) does not discuss ongoing investigations, but speculation immediately turned to the ALP’s links with big Chinese donors.
As Labor frontbenchers, including Richard Marles debated the role of China on the floor of the conference, news of the raids remained the hot topic of discussion.
“China is rising, which is fundamentally good. This has had a lot to do with our continued economic growth for 27 years,” Mr Marles said.
“It would be wrong to put a black hat on China. They are not the Soviet Union. They are responsible for the single biggest alleviation of poverty in human history.
“But they are also seeking to reshape a global, rules-based order which has underpinned our prosperity for more than 70 years.”
New laws designed to protect Australia from foreign influence have now banned foreign donations.
But the laws, which came in the wake of the Sam Dasytyari scandal over Chinese donors that prompted his resignation from the Senate, would not capture his dealings with Chinese donor Huang Xiangmo.
Contacted yesterday, Mr Dastyari, a former NSW state secretary, told The New Daily he had “no idea” what the raids were about.
Former ALP secretary and Labor MP Matt Thistlethwaite declined to comment on whether the raids were coordinated for a day when the party’s leadership was in Adelaide.
“The officials and staff and the branch officers of NSW are co-operating to ensure ICAC can conduct their investigation,” he said.
“They are a body that’s done great work in NSW and has the support of the broad populace. It’s one of the reasons why Labor has moved to establish a National Integrity Commission.”
Labor leader Bill Shorten has criticised the Prime Minister’s proposed integrity commission proposals because they all not include public hearings.