“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 ask me there,” he said. .
“I think it’s unfair for you to ask me that question in public.”
Dr Chau released a written statement saying he was “shocked and disappointed” by the “baseless and reckless” claim.
“It is always regrettable that elected officials use the shield of parliamentary privilege as a platform to defame and attack Australian citizens without producing any evidence,” he said.
“I am a businessman and a philanthropist. I have never been involved or interested in interfering with the democratic electoral process in Australia.
“I urge Senator Kitching to show courage and integrity by repeating her request and revealing the sources she says she relied on, outside of Parliament.”
Dr Chau has donated $4 million to Australian political parties and $45 million to universities, with a building named after him at the University of Technology Sydney.
No worries for Labor candidates
In his Senate testimony, Mr Burgess reiterated that the plot had been disrupted and confirmed Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s statement that he was not concerned about which Labor candidates would run in the next election.
“The Leader of the Opposition gave an accurate account of the conversation I had with him last week when he asked me this question,” Mr Burgess told Labor MP Kristina Keneally.
Mr Burgess revealed in his annual threat assessment last week that the intelligence agency disrupted a plot to interfere in a recent election.
He said a wealthy individual, nicknamed the ‘puppet master’, had direct and deep ties to a foreign government and its intelligence agencies and, through an intermediary, planned to help support the candidates potential with favorable coverage in foreign language media and campaign resources. Potential candidates had no idea of the plan.
“The puppeteer pulled the strings”
“While the puppeteer pulled the strings, the foreign government called the shots,” Mr Burgess said.
Mr Burgess did not name the targeted jurisdiction and political party, or the foreign government behind the scheme, except to say interference was occurring at all levels of government, in all states and territories.
But the government seized on Mr Burgess’ comments to suggest the plot showed China wanted the Labor Party to win the next election. Intelligence sources said the plot was directed against the NSW Labor Party.
Mr Burgess said it was crucial that ASIO be seen as non-partisan and apolitical to maintain public trust.
“I take our reputation very seriously. ASIO is not there to be politicized. It shouldn’t be,” he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told 2GB he was “very aware” of the levels of foreign interference in Australia.
As the government escalated its claims that Labor leader Anthony Albanese would appease China, Beijing slammed Scott Morrison for criticizing China as being “terribly silent” on the buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.
“We urge the Australian side to abandon the Cold War mentality and ideological biases and stop making belligerent rhetoric that will escalate tensions. Such acts of seeking selfish political gain by calling for confrontation are unethical. and dangerous,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.