Turnbull with chinese in sydney

Elections free and fair?

When democratic elections are held in other – mostly developing – countries, they are sometimes overseen by organisations such as the United Nations.

After the election is over, people wait to see if the election is declared “free and fair” – that being the stamp of approval indicating that the result is an accurate representation of the will of the people.

But what of Australia?

In the words of our national anthem, “Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free…”.  But who monitors our elections to see that they are free from interference, foreign or domestic?

As a young soldier, my service took me to many countries.  I didn’t witness too many general elections, but I was present at the time of the odd coup attempt or two in both South East Asia and Africa. 

I don’t recommend the coup d’ etat as an effective or desirable manner in which to change governments, particularly if they fail and you happen to be on the losing side. 

Idi Amin dictator of Uganda
Keeping a cool head is a good thing – unless it’s in Idi Amin’s refrigerator.

I was never there as an official of the Australian government, nor was I on official duty.  I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But I digress…

The Lucky Country – So Far

Australia is known for many things – white sandy beaches, big sky, laid back attitude to most things (except sport), attempting to trounce the Brits or Kiwis at something.  Anything. 

And – although less important to most people than the former – elections free from corruption.  But that’s where I take exception.

Imagine, however, if someone wanted to influence – or manipulate – the outcome of our federal election.  Over the years I have become concerned about whether it was possible that people acting for a foreign power could infiltrate our electoral system. 

Now, at local government level, I have witnessed (and received) threatening phone calls when I was involved in an election, I’ve seen evidence of representatives from law firms reaching agreement with state government bodies that certain things will be withheld from scrutiny. 

Those “certain things” related to elections.  I am sure the law firm was acting on behalf of a client.  In fact, I know they were.  Law firms rarely act for themselves.

Local government elections aside, my real concern is that there could equally be an unhealthy level of involvement in our political process – specifically when it comes to Federal elections.

In particular, that could come from a foreign power bent on ensuring that the successful party behaved favourably towards them in their policy making.  This would no doubt include trade relations, defence, plus other forms of collaboration here and abroad.

What Could Possibly go Wrong?

Who would do such things, you ask?  Well, the immediate likely candidates would be countries such as Indonesia or perhaps even the Peoples’ Republic of China.  I offer these two for the following reasons:

Indonesia – has a huge population occupying a string of islands where resources are limited.  They would no doubt find all the real estate and resources of Australia very appealing. 

The Australian military has long played with the idea that Indonesia covets our continent, to the extent that war games emulate the Indonesian invader scenario – it’s just the name which is never mentioned.

China – Another resource-poor nation with aspirations for food security and expansionist dreams beyond its physical borders.

Plus, there is already a large ethnic Chinese population resident in Australia.  China has invested heavily in Australia by way of dockland management, purchase of real estate, farms and cattle stations.

Both these nations have a lot to gain by an Australian government favourable to them.  But how would they go about it?

How to Buy a Government

Well, if I were to run that operation, I would identify sympathisers and organisations within Australia who would either benefit ideologically if a party aligned with my ideals were to be elected. 

I would also have an “each way bet” with the opposing party – just in case my strategy didn’t succeed.  Then, I would channel funds to each of the parties by way of “donations,” but keep them at arm’s length. 

Money in a brown paper bag
Don’t worry about the election – it’s in the bag

By that, I mean I wouldn’t have an Indonesian or Chinese person or organisation making the donation.  I would have someone associated with an Indonesian/Chinese person or organisation making the donation to allow me to skirt the ban on foreign donations to Australian political parties.

I have first-hand experience of the reverse when, in 2003 I assisted a Chinese national to get foreign money into China, avoiding official scrutiny. 

I won’t mention the details here, but it was done.  I have no idea if it could be done now, but it is possible there is a different way.  If it is possible to get money into China, who is to say it is not possible to get money into Australia in a similar way?

So, Who is Pulling the Strings

From my own observations of the behaviour of members of the major political parties and information gleaned from my own investigations and observations of particular individuals, I harboured a strong suspicion that China’s influence in the recent NSW state and federal elections may have been to a degree that could impact the outcome. 

It’s an interesting word – “influence”.  Among my friends we often debate the correct word to use in certain circumstances.  I contend that, if the outcome is desirable, the word “influence” is appropriate.  But, if the outcome is not desirable, perhaps the word “manipulate” might be closer to the mark.

We’ve all heard the story about the ALP and the Aldi shopping bag.  Need I say more?

I fear that the PRC is using money to buy outcomes either directly or indirectly.  The money is being channelled to the major political parties via locally-based individuals to disguise its origins.

The End Game

All of this is for one outcome – a government in Australia that is amenable to the Chinese government’s overtures, whether they be for trade, food security or real estate. 

This would allow the Chinese government to spread its influence in the region and secure itself via its “one belt, one road” strategy; a strategy aimed at creating a buffer around the Chinese mainland.

The interference in the political process is totally inappropriate and must be stopped.  Both the major political parties in Australia – the LNP and ALP – must do everything possible to stop the funding of their political aspirations with money whose origins is from within potentially hostile States like China or Indonesia.

In addition to that, many countries now closely scrutinise the establishment and spread of “Confucius Centres” funded by the PRC which are ostensibly for cultural and language exchange in foreign schools and universities. 

These are, in my view, a front for activities aimed at furthering Chinese influence in that host country.

China doesn’t need to use military power to expand its influence.  It has the ability to use economic power.  Economic power is far preferable.  Don’t think it is not happening already in Australia and a large percentage of the world – developed or developing.

It is, and we need to stop it, before we find that our Government has been bought and paid for by the Chinese Communist Party or another hostile State actor.