An investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and Four Corners can reveal that when Mr Abbott attended the golf day at the club, Chinese media reported that he lent his support to Mr Lam’s and Mr Jiang’s $100 million development plans. Mr Abbott posed for photos with Mr Lam and Mr Jiang at that event.
A fortnight later, the fundraiser was held at the club.
A Liberal party spokesman said donations raised at the Twin Creeks fundraiser in March 2018 were appropriately declared, although did not say how much was raised. The party’s federal wing has disclosed a $40,000 “other receipts” contribution to the Liberals from “Twin Creeks” in the 2017-18 financial year.
A senior Liberal party source said last night the party was now reviewing the donations associated with Twin Creeks.
Earlier, a spokesman for Mr Abbott said: ‘‘Liberal Party events are a matter for the organisational wing of the party, adding that, “Mr Abbott attended as a guest and had no involvement with arrangements surrounding the event in question.’’
As Twin Creeks had previously hosted major sporting events, he had “no reason to believe there was any concern around the venue’s ownership,” the spokesman said.
His spokesman and chief fundraiser, Mr Caputo, both declined to answer specific questions, including about whether use of the Twin Creeks facilities and bottles of wines from Mr Jiang’s winery – which were photographed at what appears to be a fundraising auction – were donated.
At the March event, Mr Abbott said he was “very grateful” to attendees for taking time off to ‘‘support the Warringah Liberal Party”, and adding: “I look forward to many visits to Twin Creeks.”
He also said he greatly admired “the achievements of modern China” although was “no friend of Communism.”
The revelations about Mr Lam and Mr Jiang have been uncovered as part of a joint Age, Herald and Four Corners investigation exposing ongoing efforts by the Communist Party to exert influence in Australia — from community media organisations and local councils to the top echelon of Federal politics. The efforts are continuing, despite the introduction of new counter-interference reforms in June 2018.
Mr Jiang claims to have organised fundraisers for both major parties. But John Garnaut, a former senior China adviser to ex-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, said: ‘‘Look, if I was a politician, I wouldn’t be taking money from somebody who is involved in a foreign propaganda outlet.’’
Mr Lam was at one time one of the most important figures in the Macau gaming industry, and considered one of the “largest VIP junket operators in Asia.”
He fled the Philippines in late 2016 after authorities raided his casino and arrested 1316 Chinese nationals working illegally. In October 2017, Philippines anti-corruption authorities announced that Lam was facing charges of paying a $1.3 million bribe to two high ranking immigration officials.
Mr Jiang is Australia’s most powerful Chinese language media player and since 2011 has partnered in a joint venture media company with a Chinese government radio service subsidiary.
The Age, Herald and Four Corners investigation has also uncovered the first evidence that Mr Jiang’s Australian outlets and their staff are being actively censored and issued directives not to criticise Chinese President Xi Jinping or his Communist Party.
Mr Jiang has been known since 2015 to have partnered with a Chinese Communist Party controlled firm to run what China expert Louisa Lim describes as an ‘‘expanding network of radio stations which are running state-run Chinese propaganda into different countries around the world’’, including Australia.
A secret recording of Mr Jiang obtained by The Age and Four Corners reveals him castigating veteran Melbourne broadcaster Xiao Lu last August for allowing criticism of Beijing from talkback callers.
‘‘If this continues, I will have trouble with my business partners in Melbourne and other partners too. You will also be in trouble. It has gone too far,” Mr Jiang is recorded saying.
‘‘You can’t just let them verbally abuse China and the Chinese Communist Party on air. Furthermore, their language is too vicious, you can’t allow that to happen.’’ Mr Xiao’s program has not aired since then.
In 2014, Mr Jiang’s Melbourne radio station 3CW was found by the Fair Work Commission to have sacked another broadcaster, Xiaofeng Hou, because she was Christian. The commission described the sacking as ‘‘a wholly improper and inappropriate, discriminatory decision’’. The Communist Party is increasingly cracking down on Christianity.
Mr Jiang, was a former member of the Communist Youth League and a soccer player before migration to Australia and becoming a citizen. The recent success of his media business is due in part to his long-standing collaboration with the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda arm via the state-owned international broadcaster, China Radio International.
Mr Jiang resigned from his directorships of his Australian media companies in February and March, but it is unclear why.
Mr Jiang, who did not respond to efforts to contact him, has previously attacked as baseless claims made by ASIO, the federal police and the federal government that the Chinese Communist Party is seeking covert influence in Australia.
In a 2017 affidavit, Mr Jiang said that ‘‘since 2012, I have organised fundraising for the Liberal and Labour [sic] parties.’’ In 2013, he hosted a fundraiser for Kevin Rudd that raised $260,000.
It’s not the first time Mr Abbott’s office has been involved in controversial fundraising.
In February 2018, it was revealed that Mr Abbott’s office had played a role in encouraging Communist Party-aligned Sydney property developer and ASIO target Huang Xiangmo to donate to Liberal candidates before the 2016 election.
At the time, a spokesman for Mr Abbott said: “Mr Abbott is aware that Mr Huang sought to donate to the Liberal Party and understands he was encouraged to do so in accordance with AEC rules.”
Watch a joint investigation by The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald and Four Corners revealing new details of Beijing’s interference campaign on ABC, 8.30pm Monday, April 8.
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Nick McKenzie is an investigative reporter for The Age. He’s won seven Walkley awards and covers politics, business, foreign affairs and defence, human rights issues, the criminal justice system and social affairs.