Julie Bishop at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney on Thursday
Australia failed to see the threat of China meddling in its domestic affairs because politicians were blinded by Communist cash, an expert has claimed.
Successive governments failed to crack down on Chinese interference because they were too focused on trade and investment, according to journalist and Lowy Institute fellow Peter Hartcher.
Speaking at the Centre For Independent Studies in Sydney on Thursday, Mr Hartcher said Australia has only just acknowledged that China poses potential security threats.
‘We have only just awoken from distraction and woken up to China,’ he said.
Mr Hatcher said the Turnbull government’s decision to ban Chinese mobile network Huawei from Australia’s 5G network – as well as new foreign interference laws – marked a policy shift to treat China with more caution.
Asked by Daily Mail Australia why he believed action was not taken sooner, he blamed the allure of Chinese money.
‘It’s because we’ve been doing so much business with China,’ he said.
Over the past decade China has poured more than $150billion into Australia by investing in or acquiring Aussie companies, including cattle farms, airports coalmines and wind farms.
This table shows how much China has invested in Australia since 2007 – totally more than US$100billion
China is flexing its muscles on the global stage amid violent protests (pictured) in Hong Kong
China is Australia’s largest trading partner and two-way trade grew 17.5 per cent last year despite tension over Mr Turnbull’s reforms.
Also in his talk, Mr Hartcher warned that China will keep trying to install spies in Canberra.
‘The Chinese Communist Party will not stop trying to get candidates into our parliament,’ he said.
His warning came after reports this week that a Chinese car dealer in Melbourne was bribed $1million by communist agents to run for parliament before he was mysteriously found dead in March.
Mr Hartcher called for more to be done to combat Chinese interference in domestic affairs while maintaining a successful trading relationship.
‘We need to enforce foreign interference laws better, reform the political finance system and screen candidates better,’ he said.
‘Let’s toughen our system so we can engage confidently,’ he said.
The Chinese Communist Party will not stop trying to get candidates into our parliament
Mr Hartcher was speaking alongside former foreign minister Julie Bishop, who also said security in Canberra needs to be tightened.
‘My staff had to go through rigorous checks to get their jobs but I had no need for security clearance. Politicians never do,’ she said.
Ms Bishop also called for government to bolster cyber security defence and said that there should be stricter rules surrounding donations to politicians.
It comes after Nine’s 60 Minutes broadcast explosive allegations that suspected Chinese agents had offered Chinese-Australian Bo ‘Nick’ Zhao $1 million to run as a candidate in a federal seat in Melbourne.
The 32-year-old luxury car dealer had reportedly disclosed the alleged approach for him to spy to the Australia Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) last year, before he was found dead in a motel room in March.
Self-proclaimed Chinese spy Wang ‘William’ Liqiang (pictured)
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday the allegations surrounding Zhao, a member of his Liberal Party, were ‘deeply disturbing and troubling’.
In a rare public statement late Sunday night, ASIO head Mike Burgess said the agency was had been ‘actively investigating’ the matter.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang denied the claims, accusing ‘some politicians, organisations and media in Australia’ of ‘cooking up so-called China spy cases.’
The claims came just days after a Chinese spy reportedly gave ASIO the identities of China’s senior military intelligence officers in Hong Kong and provided details about how they funded and conducted operations in the city, Taiwan and Australia.
China has tried to paint defector Wang ‘William’ Liqiang as an unemployed fraudster and fugitive, but there are growing calls in Australia to grant him political asylum.
Recently retired ASIO chief Duncan Lewis said last week that China wanted to ‘take over’ Australia’s political system with an ‘insidious’ and systematic campaign of espionage and influence peddling.
China is also widely suspected of being behind major intrusions into the computer systems of Australia’s parliament and a university with close ties to the government and security services.
But Beijing has previously angrily denied allegations it was covertly meddling in Australian affairs.
In a fearsome display of power in June, three Chinese warships (pictured) sailed through Sydney harbour and docked for four days