It’s a textbook case of the pot calling the kettle black this week in Aussie politics.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is under fire for keeping silent about his own relationship with banned Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo, which led him to be the guest of honour at Mr Huang’s daughter’s wedding.
Meanwhile, Shorten thinks it fitting to heap criticism on Liberal MP Peter Dutton for meeting with Mr Huang back in 2016, while Huang was unsuccessfully trying to fast track his citizenship application.
Huang’s tactics didn’t work on Dutton
As AAP reports, Shorten has been attacking Dutton and the Liberal party for giving ‘cash for access’ to formal Liberal minister Santo Santoro, who then arranged a one-on-one meeting between Huang and Dutton (the then-immigration minister).
An investigation conducted by the ABC’s Four Corners television program claimed that Dutton approved the request to fast-track Huang’s family’s citizenship applications, and allowed them a private citizenship ceremony inside former Labor MP Sam Dastyari’s Parliament House office.
Mr Dastyari was later forced to quit office after he let Mr Huang know that he was being investigated.
But Mr Dutton said citizenship was not discussed at the meeting, which happened back in 2016. Dutton also insists he never took a dollar in donations from Mr Huang.
Former PM Tony Abbott says Dutton therefore acted appropriately, as he wasn’t ‘bought’.
‘It’s not a crime to be photographed with someone, it’s not a scandal to go to an event with someone,’ he told reporters. Try telling the mainstream media that.
Current Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also played down the ‘scandalous’ nature of the meeting, telling reporters in Launceston:
‘Mr Huang has met with many people in the Labor party, in other sides of politics, and it’s a free country, they can meet with who they like.
‘We’re the ones who cancelled his visa, we are the ones who wouldn’t give him citizenship and we’re the ones who said he’s never returning to Australia.’
Shorten ‘over-cooked’ his criticism
It seems Shorten is trying these ‘play down’ tactics on his own relationship with Huang, who security agencies have banned from re-entering Australia.
When asked this week if he ever discussed the China–Australia free trade agreement with Huang when they met in 2015, Shorten remained vague:
‘We have had plenty of meetings with all sorts of people, we always talk about foreign policy, you can talk about domestic policy.’
Can you also always accept a $50,000 donation to your party? Because that’s what Huang did for Labor.
‘The matters to which you have referred have already been previously canvassed in the media,’ Mr Shorten said. Much like the 2016 meeting he keeps harping on about, no?
Attorney-General Christian Porter thinks Mr Shorten has ‘over-cooked’ his attacks on the coalition and Dutton, and has been quite hypocritical.
‘Bill Shorten has a depth of relationship with Huang Xiangmo that he has been absolutely silent about whilst he is delivering criticism of a lunch (with Mr Dutton),’ Porter told reporters in Perth.
‘There is a world of difference between the closeness and intimacy of a relationship which is evidenced by one lunch to the intimacy and closeness of a relationship that is evidenced by being invited to that person’s daughter’s wedding.’
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