WA state treasurer's all-expenses-paid China trip linked to controversial billionaire, communist regime
Advertisement

WA state treasurer's all-expenses-paid China trip linked to controversial billionaire, communist regime

Questions have been raised over a senior WA Labor minister and his relationship with the Chinese billionaire who ended the political career of former senator Sam Dastyari.

A Fairfax Media investigation has revealed Treasurer Ben Wyatt accepted thousands of dollars in overseas travel from an organisation linked to China's communist regime and controversial property developer Huang Xiangmo.

Mr Wyatt described the all-expenses-paid, five-day sojourn to China in 2015 as a delegation organised by federal Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, but it was paid for by the Australian Guangdong Chamber of Commerce, which is run by Mr Huang.

Mr Huang is the Chinese businessman who was tipped off by Mr Dastyari in 2015 that his phone may have been under surveillance by intelligence agencies and who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Australian political parties, including Labor.

Federal Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, during a trip hosted by an organisation run by controversial billionaire Huang Xiangmo and the Communist Party of China.

Federal Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, during a trip hosted by an organisation run by controversial billionaire Huang Xiangmo and the Communist Party of China.

Photo: Supplied

The only public statement made by Mr Wyatt about the trip was a Facebook post in which he thanked Mr Bowen for "for inviting me to join his delegation".

Advertisement

The handful of federal MPs who accompanied Mr Wyatt, including Mr Bowen, declared in their financial interests disclosures that the Communist Party of China (CPC) had also contributed to the trip.

But Mr Wyatt, who is required under state law to declare who contributed to his travel, did not include the CPC in his register of interests even though he stayed in a Beijing hotel owned by the CPC's International Department.

Loading

An itinerary for the trip, which included stops in Hong Kong and Beijing, was prepared for Mr Wyatt by the office of Mr Bowen and described the sojourn as an "ALP Young Political Leaders Delegation".

Mr Wyatt had two meetings in Beijing with the International Department of the CPC, which fosters links between the Chinese regime and political parties around the world.

These meetings included a "working talk" with vice-minister Xu Lyuping and a "welcoming luncheon" hosted by director-general Ma Hui.

"It is my understanding that all financial contributions to the trip were made by the Australian Guangdong Chamber of Commerce," Mr Wyatt said.

However, he said the CPC "assists with facilitating a number of delegations between China and Australia".

China experts have described the International Department as "a crucial vehicle for advancing China’s modernisation goals, studying current international conditions, and fostering ties with influential foreigners from every region".

Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo.

Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo.

Photo: Ryan Stuart

In October 2015, ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis told Labor party officials the intelligence agency was concerned about Mr Huang's opaque ties to the CPC.

Fairfax Media last year revealed Mr Dastyari, while still a senator, had warned Mr Huang his phone may have been tapped by security and intelligence agencies during a visit to his house in October 2015.

Links between Mr Huang and Labor engulfed the party in controversy last year when Mr Dastyari appeared at a press conference alongside Mr Huang and defended China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Mr Huang was tipped off by Mr Dastyari in 2015.

Mr Huang was tipped off by Mr Dastyari in 2015.

Photo: Fairfax Media

Mr Wyatt said he had never met with Mr Huang or anyone who identified themselves as a representative of his businesses.

When asked by Fairfax Media why he accepted the trip he said: "It is important to take opportunities to visit and build relationships with our state's strongest economic partner."

"In every trip I have made to China I have met with either government officials (local, provincial or Central) and/or representatives from the relevant level of the Chinese Communist Party," he said.

Mr Bowen said the trip was organised as a young leaders' dialogue as part of a "mutual exchange" between the Communist Party's Central Committee and other political parties, including the Australian Labor Party.

"Mr Wyatt is correct that I suggested he join the delegation, primarily due to the importance of the China trading relationship to the Western Australian economy," he said.

The Australian Guangdong Chamber of Commerce and Mr Huang did not respond to requests for comment.

Nathan covers state politics for WAtoday. He is a former editor of the Mandurah Mail, where he also covered politics for Fairfax's regional titles.