Achieving wide Australian mainstream media coverage this week was a report that Chinese gambling mogul Dr. Stanley Ho is prominent among several Chinese businessmen who have made generous donations to Australian political parties.
Australian Electoral Commission figures show that billionaire Dr Ho donated A$400 000 to the New South Wales ALP in 2007/08, and that one Anthony Chan, who lists the same address in the disclosure form as Ho, also made two donations of A$50 000 each.
NSW Premier Nathan Rees told reporters that he had never met Dr Ho, whilst back in 2007 then premier Morris Iemma was forced to deny he'd had discussions with Ho about a possible second casino for NSW when the pair met. Two months later, the NSW Government signed a $100 million deal maintaining the monopoly enjoyed by Sydney's Star City casino.
Also reported is a A$250 000 donation from Hong Kong's Kingson Investment, while the Gold-coast based Hungtat Worldwide made the largest donation of A$600 000, again to the NSW ALP.
The ALP was not the only beneficiary of Chinese largesse; the NSW Liberals received donations with the Hong Kong-based Tech Dragon Holding Ltd donating A$199 982 in 2007/08, whilst Chun Yip Trading Co gave the Liberals A$199 980, and a further A$99 962 came from Kingson Investment, based in Guangzhou.
Ironically, despite these donations, Liberal Leader Barry O'Farrell said he would like to restrict political donations, so only Australian citizens can provide money to parties.
"I just think that people who have a vested interest in the political system are those who are able to vote, those that are able to live here, those who have experienced the services," he said. "Like the US, where donations are restricted to US citizens, I think those restrictions should be applied to Australia."
The declared total receipts for the NSW ALP for 2007/08 was $18.256 million, while the NSW Liberals declared $12.208 million.
NSW Premier Rees told reporters that his contention that donations should be abolished and the political system become publicly funded remained. The Premier said he had had discussions with the federal Special Minister of State John Faulkner on the matter before Christmas and talks would continue.
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