China’s problematic role in Australia is finally get an airing. But the most astonishing thing of all is that Australia actually welcomes foreign political donations.
Only when I came across this story 18 months ago, with photos of vapid grinning politicians and their foreign-born sponsors, did it occur that this was possible.
Not even the wildest internationalist can conceive of a ‘democracy’ in which non-citizens get to vote with their wallets and where politicians adjust policy in pursuit of largess from foreign billionaires.
Even in the US, where politicians barely trouble to disguise the trade in cash and favours, foreign donations are beyond the pale.
The next and only slightly-less incredible aspect of this is that this involves Chinese property developers, a class of people whose mega-wealth is the result of the careful cultivation of government connections. What could go wrong?
It’s a system failure. Australia’s elites long ago came to see China as a cash machine, priming our economy with their endless demand for minerals and property and education. They have never understood that this all has to be paid for.
It recalls the Shane Warne-Mark Waugh encounter with Indian bookies. They didn’t see that the initial innocuous transactions were meant to get them on the hook. But they at least had the sense to report it.
Australia is on the China hook. For many years people have expressed concerns about the growing economic dependence on a country that has weaponised its economic weight.
But Canberra collectively has sat on its hands – and that’s the alarming part. If our leaders are flummoxed by an easy problem like donations, how on earth are they going to deal with the hard ones?
Let’s just put it here: the idea of soaking foreign businesspeople for donations is the stupidest political idea ever.
[Part 1 of a series on Australia-China]