Despite my reading on this developing story, I am still working through the details of the situation. Therefore, please excuse me if this article jumps around with a lack of direction.
There is currently an ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) inquiry taking place into the NSW Labour Party regarding the party’s alleged scheme to circumvent NSW electoral funding laws with Chinese donations. There will be six weeks of hearings into the party’s dealings with the Chinese Friends of Labour into the nature of the contributions since 2015. Labour’s community relations director Kenrick Cheah and NSW Labor general secretary Kaila Murnain have been the first witnesses to be called. If found guilty of the allegations, the crimes can attract a jail term of up to 10 years.
A March 2015, Chinese Friends of Labor fundraising dinner which raised over $100,000 is at the centre of the current controversy with a possible breach of Part 6 of the Electoral Funding Act what the investigation is focused on.
Moreover, the electoral commission identified possible offences including false-statements and declarations, offences relating to caps on donations as well as other offences and failure to keep records.
ICAC stormed the offices of NSW Labor last year which Labor suggested had been carried out for purposes other than the legitimate investigative ICAC’s powers and was based on improper motives. However, ICAC argued that it conducted the raid to “maintain operational integrity.”
This case is ongoing, and there is guaranteed to be more revelations over the coming weeks. So, what does this mean for us?
Firstly, this case could spell the end of NSW Labor’s general secretary, Kaila Murnain’s position. It was revealed that Ms Murnain saw an Aldi shopping bag full of cash after it was dropped at the party’s headquarters by Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo. These reports have been covered up by Party members, and now they are becoming discovered, possibly leading to detrimental effects on the NSW Labor party.
This also raises concerns over foreign influence in Australia’s election processes. Laws regarding donates are strict and were created to ensure equality across the system, however; there are many loopholes which continue to be used. Our laws must improve, and if any party is found guilty, punishments should be given to ensure that other parties understand the ramifications of neglecting the political donation legislation.
There is always going to be a degree of foreign influence. That seems unavoidable, but we need to control it the best we can. Our elections need to be organised by Australians and run by Australians, that is how an effective democracy operates, and that is how it needs to continue.
As stated earlier, there are still many twists and turns to this ongoing investigation. There is still no clarity on the exact details and the classic ‘who knew what’. Nevertheless, if found guilty, punishments need to be appropriate and if nothing else this inquiry must act as a warning to other party’s that if you break the law, it will eventually catch up with you.