Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has defended his state colleagues on the issue of foreign donations, despite the fact the Federal Government is trying to ban them.
Federal Parliament is currently debating a suite of foreign interference laws, including banning foreign nationals from chipping in for the nation’s political parties.
The issue came to fever pitch last year in Canberra, as Labor’s Sam Dastyari was grilled over his links to a Chinese businessman before he eventually resigned from the Senate.
But on the campaign trail in South Australia, the Prime Minister defended his state colleagues’ preparedness to accept foreign cash — in particular from mysterious donor Sally Zou.
Last week Ms Zou tweeted and promptly deleted a photo of a $1.2 million cheque made out to the SA Liberals, and the party said it was yet to receive the funds.
An ABC investigation of political donations reveals Chinese businesses are by far the largest foreign-linked donors to both major parties. Search the data here.
“Everyone has to comply with the law on donations, and everybody does — I’m absolutely assured that the state division does,” Mr Turnbull said.
“We are seeking to change the law to prohibit foreign donations, that’s working its way through the Parliament at the moment.
“If and when the law is changed — and I say ‘if’ because obviously we have to get the support of either Labor and the Greens or enough of the crossbench to get it through — but assuming the law is changed, then it will have to be complied with.”
After days of heckling the Liberals over Ms Zou’s phantom donation, state Labor have also been on the back foot about foreign funds flowing into their coffers.
A $20,000 donation from Chinese-owned Wright Investments was made to the ALP late last month, but Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis argued it was a completely different situation.
“Use the pub test: is a $2 million donation the same as a $10,000 donation?” he said.
“You can’t compare a donation by people who live here, who have businesses here, to a donation from a mysterious Chinese businesswoman who won’t present herself to the media for interview.
“They have taken money from Ms Sally Zou previously, they’ll take it again. They’re addicted to these donations, they are addicted to this money and they’re spending it.”
It was Mr Turnbull’s first visit to South Australia to campaign alongside Liberal leader Steven Marshall since the writs for the March 17 election were issued.
During a visit to a winery at McLaren Vale, Mr Turnbull spruiked the need for South Australia to be proactive in selling its goods and services to the world.
“You can’t just wait for the world to turn up, you’ve got to go out there and knock on doors and push and shove. And you’ve got to be persuasive, and you have to be relentless,” he said.