A wealthy Chinese businessman has been named under parliamentary privilege as the alleged ‘puppeteer’ behind a foiled plot.
Wealthy Chinese businessman Chau Chak Wing has been named under parliamentary privilege by a Labor senator as the alleged “puppeteer” behind a foiled foreign interference plot to get political candidates elected.
Victorian Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching used parliamentary privilege on Monday night to ask Mike Burgess, the head of Australia’s ASIO spy agency, if the property developer was the mystery man involved in the alleged plot.
Dr Chau, who is an Australian citizen, had already been awarded $590,000 after a judge found he had been defamed by an ABC program which portrayed him as a member of the Communist Party.
His lawyers argued the program carried six defamatory accusations, including that he had “betrayed” his country through espionage, was a member of the Chinese Communist Party and made huge donations to influence politicians.
By naming Dr Chau under parliamentary privilege on Monday evening, Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching cannot be sued for libel.
“I am reliably informed that the puppeteer mentioned in your case study in your annual threat assessment speech last week is Chau Chak Wing,” Senator Kitching said.
“I believe it’s Chau Chak Wing. Are you able to confirm that it is Chau Chak Wing? »
Mr Burgess declined to comment, telling the hearing “Senator, as I have said before, I will not comment on speculation about who is and who is not targeted, generally or specifically, as you tell me. ask for it there.”
Dr Chau was previously appointed to Parliament by Liberal MP Andrew Hastie in 2018. Mr Hastie used parliamentary privilege to claim that Dr Chau had “co-conspired to bribe” a senior UN official. Dr. Chau also denied these claims.
The use of parliamentary privilege to appoint Dr Chau follows ASIO’s warning last week he had foiled a foreign interference plot.
“I can confirm that ASIO recently detected and disrupted a plot of foreign interference in the run up to an election in Australia,” he said in his speech.
“I’m not going to identify the jurisdiction because we are seeing attempts at foreign interference at all levels of government, in all states and territories.”
News.com.au previously reported that the jurisdiction was NSW and the plot allegedly targeted Labour.
“The employee hired by the puppeteer began to identify potential candidates for election who supported foreign government interests or who were assessed as vulnerable to inducement and culture,” he said.
“The employee used existing relationships with politicians, staff and journalists to screen potential targets, without revealing the puppeteer’s secret intent, foreign connection or involvement.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese last week called the prime minister “desperate” for trying to weaponize highly classified ASIO reports to suggest China was trying to infiltrate the PLA.
Mr Albanese tried to put an end to speculation that the target of the foreign inference plot was NSW Labour, insisting ASIO had reassured him he had ‘no problem’ with any of its candidates.
However, he did not deny that ASIO tipped him off to a secret plot that they foiled before the contestants even knew what was going on.
The Labor leader accused the Prime Minister of trashing the bipartisan national security tradition for political gain to win the upcoming election.
“I tell them national security is too important to engage in games, like what we saw on the floor of parliament,” Mr Albanese said.
“Even if the government needs a distraction.”
Mr Albanese revealed he spoke to ASIO boss Mike Burgess on Friday and asked for permission to confirm ASIO had no problem with Labor candidates.
“I asked him if I could indicate that I spoke to Mr Burgess today and he reiterated that he had not raised his concerns with any of my candidates. I cannot be clearer than this,” he said.