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Wren's week: Gladys Liu sinks, while Morrison throws her a life preserver

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Scott Morrison has a few reasons to keep Gladys Liu's career afloat (Screenshot via YouTube)

Gladys Liu has been making headlines and her political career should be in jeopardy, yet her demise is being delayed, writes John Wren.

IT'S BEEN SIMMERING for a while, but this week the newly-elected Liberal MP for Chisholm, Gladys Liu, has exploded into every headline, front page and media bulletin in the country. At first, the Murdoch press tried to ignore or downplay it but after a train-wreck interview with Andrew Bolt on Sky News, they all jumped on the bandwagon as well.

Liu has always been controversial — born in Hong Kong but university educated in Australia and largely resident since then. She has very strong links to the Chinese Communist Party, mainly through Chinese cultural front organisations. These organisations are set up to seem benign but act as political lobbyists, opinion influencers, sources of political donations and good old-fashioned surveillance and espionage — both of Australia’s resident Chinese population but also of the Australian Government.

I’ve had first-hand experience of these types of organisations in the 1970s and 80s when my grandparents were members of a “USSR Friendship Society”. I was a child at the time but look back now and see it for what it was — a KGB front.

Liu has handled the accusations very poorly. At first, she denied these links, then the day after, backflipped and admitted them. Laughably, some of the ones she denied were openly listed on her LinkedIn page. Liu is also a member of an evangelical Chinese church and has very strong negative views on same-sex marriage. She actively campaigned against it as well as the Safe Schools Program.

China does not allow dual citizenships and under their law any Chinese citizen who takes up another citizenship automatically loses their Chinese nationality.  As such, there is no question that Liu is a sole Australian citizen, however clearly the links both social, cultural and political remain.

Liu is well known as a substantial fundraiser for the Liberal Party, particularly through the local Chinese community and her links to these organisations render all of her donations highly suspect. Are these donations foreign-derived? Is the Chinese Communist Party buying influence (or worse) via direct donations to the Liberal Party?

There are reports that $300,000 was raised at one such event and the party was made to return it as its sources were so dubious. She has allegedly raised many millions for the Liberal Party. Certainly, enough to buy her Chisholm pre-selection. I use the term “buy” because that’s how these things often work in the Liberal Party.

It's clear that Liu’s nascent political career is dead in the water. It is now only a matter of when Morrison cuts her loose, not if. But oddly, the Liberal Party has circled the wagons and is actively defending her. Today, the Labor Party moved a motion in Parliament to have Liu address it and explain herself — the Liberals voted the motion down. After her disastrous interview with Bolt, they don’t want her talking publicly. Even they have lost trust in her.

We have seen these scandals in the past. In 2015, then PM Tony Abbott defended Bronwyn Bishop over her helicopter rorting until he could no more and in 2018, Labor’s Sam Dastyari was at first defended and protected by then Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. The issue festered and festered until Dastyari’s position became untenable and he resigned. Interestingly, his misadventure was relatively minor compared to Liu’s.

At the time, Morrison made much of it, saying it was a test of Shorten’s leadership. Like many things in politics, what goes around comes around. This is now a test of Morrison’s leadership — especially since it has emerged that ASIO had made an adverse finding against Liu during her pre-selection. Morrison ignored this and chose her anyway. So far, Morrison has been found spectacularly wanting.

But why is Morrison delaying the termination of Liu? A couple of reasons. The first is that he has only a one seat majority. He needs her in Parliament, if only for the numbers. In other words, he is putting the Party and his PMship above the integrity of our democracy and the security of our nation. There is a good chance the Liberals would win the Chisholm by-election, but there would be around six weeks where his numbers in the house would be challenging and if Labor did win the seat, it would become very uncomfortable for him.

Dutton and Morrison like to regularly remind us that they only have the nation’s security at heart. Only last week, they said that deporting the Biloela Tamil family was a matter of national security, however, apparently having an alleged Chinese operative sitting in their Party room and voting on legislation is not a security threat. Nothing to see here, folks. Apparently, a simple working-class Tamil family is more dangerous than a former(?) CCP member sitting in Parliament.

Which brings us to the other reason Morrison is not acting to remove Liu. Keeping her in Parliament is an excellent distraction from the Biloela Tamil family, drug testing of welfare recipients, the cashless welfare card (Indue), the deplorable Religious Discrimination Bill, inaction on climate change (and the bushfires it’s accelerating) and the tanking economy. It has completely diverted all attention away from these important issues. That’s the real reason. We must all remain vigilant as when scandals like this engulf a government, they will often use it as cover to pass something even more unpalatable.

This week, we also saw the progressive Senate Parties, aided by the crossbench, pass a motion to legislate for a Federal Integrity Commission. In the lower house, the Liberal Government used its numbers to vote it down. This begs the question: why would a political party vote down an integrity commission? The only answer is they are afraid of being caught out. That in itself speaks volumes for the integrity of the Government. Australia desperately needs such an Integrity Commission, a real Commission with real teeth. If the events of this week alone don’t justify it, what will?

And while this debacle unfolds before us, Morrison has anointed his new personal RAAF jet with the moniker “Shark One”. What has Australia done to deserve this bloody idiot?

You can sign the petition to have John Wren reinstated on Twitter here.

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