Flat White

The chosen yuan: from Baghdad Bill to Beijing Bob

12 September 2016

7:19 AM

12 September 2016

7:19 AM

The 5th World Peace Forum Opens In BeijingYou’ve got to feel for poor old Sam Dastaryi, dragged through the stocks last week for a spot of unusual household budgeting involving a travel bill, a chummy donor and some artificial islands in the South China Sea. Could’ve happened to any of us.

$1,670 is a fair amount of money, to be sure. But if taking money from Chinese interests is enough to get the media’s attention then Bob Carr must be sitting by his phone awaiting interviews.

Carr, of course, is no longer an elected representative and sits in no Parliament or holds no office. But as the eminence grise of NSW Labor, he wields an influence on his former colleagues and associates bears considering.

And not everyone’s a hypocrite. Some of us still remember Bill Hartley.

Hartley was a vile little operator, associating himself with such elements as the Rejection Front, a loose coalition of Palestinian guerrilla groups that rejected any peace settlement with Israel, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He also provided intelligence for Saddam Hussein’s brutal Iraqi Ba’ath regime as well as working for Colonel Gaddafi’s government in Libya.

All this, it must be remembered, occurred while Baghdad Bill variously served as Secretary of the Victorian ALP, sat as a delegate to numerous internal bodies and ran for the Senate on the Labor ticket.

Of course, we now know that Hartley had at least 20,000 good reasons to behave in such an extraordinary way (when adjusted for Malcolm Fraser’s economic policies, that’s about $100,000 in today’s money). However, we didn’t know this at the time because Hartley received these payments from the Iraqi regime in secret and hid them right up to his death in 2006.

As Bob Hawke pointed out at a Victorian State Conference in the late seventies, there’s nothing left-wing or even vaguely “progressive” about supporting radical Islamist regimes that strip women of all rights and return them to purdah, impose theocratic regimes and sweep away all democratic norms contemptuously or threaten their neighbours with ethnoreligious holocaust and genocide.

$20,000 buys a lot of conscience.

The ALP finally expelled Hartley in 1986. It goes without saying that what Hartley and his ilk engaged in was not a contribution to wide debate on international issues within Labor and politics more generally – it was entryism, pure and simple, an attempt by a virus to infect its host. It was bribery, deception and very likely treason. It was an attempt to pervert the policy direction of Australia away from our own values and interests (and those of social democracy itself) and towards the interests of thuggish, brutal, expansionary dictatorships who had foreign political figures on their secret payrolls.

In many ways, the attempts by Arab Islamist groups to infiltrate Australian democracy parallel similar, more widespread attempts in the same period by Eastern Bloc nations, especially the Soviet Union, using the Communist Party of Australia. ASIO files released over recent years, along with the memoirs of people such as Mark Aarons (whose father Laurie was the long-time general secretary of the CPA) show a long-running system of dual party membership in the ALP and CPA, whereupon Communists loyal to foreign governments gained positions within Labor and sought to influence public policy. Figures including Senators and Government Ministers have been named as members of the Communist Party; policy positions were pushed and at times accepted that were designed to rupture the ANZUS alliance, a long-standing goal of Moscow.

Some of us still remember the likes of Bill Hartley, because Bob Carr wasn’t always a hypocrite

In the nineteen-seventies Carr founded Labor Friends of Israel with Michael Danby, now the Member for Melbourne Ports, specifically to combat the malignant influence of Hartley and his paymasters. Carr would refer to “Soviet-occupied Victoria” when dealing with the extreme left in that State; language that seems mild when compared to the scorn he heaped on Communist-aligned left-wingers in his home state of New South Wales.

Of the international Communist movement, Carr wrote several years ago while reviewing Donald Rayfield’s ‘Stalin and His Henchmen’, that “the founder of the organization that was to become OGUP, then NKVD, then the KGB, was to be conferred hero status in every subsequent Marxist regime, giving them all a model to emulate. Pol Pot’s regime probably being the truest approximation of the Marxist ideal of enforced equality, class warfare directed at the exploiting bourgeoisie and thorough-going collective ownership.”

For good measure, Carr concluded by inviting his readers to,

“Read this book and learn to revile the bastards all over again. To think that it took Australian communists like Lee Rhiannon decades to bring themselves to criticise the tyranny spawned by the 1917 revolution is to be educated again on the infinite gullibility of the idealistic.”

Strange, then, that Carr would shift to praising Lee Rhiannon as “very strong and very brave” over her commitment to an Arab narrative on Israel, in comments that also praised Labor frontbencher Tony Burke last year.

Stranger still is Carr’s sudden enthusiasm for policy positions that advantage the Communist dictatorship of the People’s Republic of China – even when they conflict with international law, the findings of international tribunals, with Australian interests or with the most basic moral concepts such as democracy or human rights

Even stranger again is that Carr would accept millions of dollars from Chinese donors in his capacity as Director of the Australia–China Relations Institute (ACRI). ACRI was established with the “generous assistance” of Mr Xiangmo Huang, Founder and Chairman of the Yuhu Group. (You might remember the Yuhu Group from such donations as Senator Dastaryi’s travel bill). The amount donated by Mr Huang was $1.8 million. In 2014, Mr Chulong Zhou – the Director of the Jiexi Rural Commercial Bank, also of Guangdong – pledged $1 million to ACRI.

ACRI’s donors closely are linked to the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China (ACPPRC). While it describes itself as a spontaneously-organised, non-government, community-based organisation, the ACPPRC is, in fact, one of several “patriotic” “united front” organisations which the People’s Republic of China (PRC) organises, supports, and possibly funds to some degree— although financial arrangements remain opaque.

It has been a practice of the Communist Party of China, since it came to power, to rely on prominent “patriotic” business persons who are prominent in organisations such as the ACPPRC to provide any funding required for front organisations. Such organisations are overseen by the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council.

The name of the ACPPRC is a reference to the “Peaceful Reunification” of mainland China and Taiwan. However, the organisation pursues a range of activities which support the international aspirations of the PRC, including influence on foreign governments.

And, it would now seem, funding the Australia China Relations Institute and its Director, Bob Carr.

Since ACRI commenced operations in early 2014, Carr’s remarks on issues of strategic importance to the People’s Republic have become so monotonously pro-China that a fellow academic has labelled them, “Bob Carr’s China-whatever comments”. Carr has sung tirelessly and tunelessly from the Chinese song sheet on matters including the South China Sea, a dispute in which virtually no one from international tribunals to experienced academics has taken China’s side.

Except for Bob Carr of the Australia China Relations Institute.

The Carr who once railed against the brutality of Communist dictatorships is now an agent of influence of one. The Carr who founded Labor Friends of Israel to combat the influence of Bill Hartley is now adopting Hartley’s long-dead policies and friends as his own.

Bob Carr is that rarest of occurrences, a reverse metamorphosis – a butterfly turning into a slug before our very eyes.

And with a compulsively narcissistic diarist like Carr, there’s a trail of hypocrisy with enough self-detonating petards going off to light the way to Guangdong and back.

Writing in his ‘Diary of a Foreign Minister’, Carr was scathing of what he perceived as the “Israel lobby” and its influence on Australian foreign policy. “It’s an appalling position,” Carr thundered, “if Australia allows a group of businessmen in Melbourne to veto policy on the Middle East.”

Elsewhere in his Diary, he linked fundraising from Jewish community organisations and individuals to Australia’s diplomacy at the United Nations, volunteering “subcontracting our foreign policy to party donors is what this involves. Or appears to involve.”

Yet strangely, Carr has had no qualms about raking in the yuan while continuing to emit policy motions in ALP fora and lobbying NSW Right MPs.

If only Huang and Zhou were well-known Jewish names.

From anti-Communist to PRC spokesman, from founding Labor Friends of Israel to conspiratorial notions of an evil “Israel lobby”, from denouncing the effect of donations on foreign policy to accepting them gratefully, Bob Carr has come a long way – a good deal of that journey in the first class seats.

The former NSW Premier is now a shell of his once-great self. To see him descend into such a pitiable state of luxurious nothingness is perhaps more sad than anything else.

The usual political point-scoring aside there’s no serious suggestion that Carr acolytes like Dastaryi, Tony Burke and Jason Clare have been anything other than proper, either in fundraising or policy terms. They certainly haven’t hidden their transactions – in fact, the only reason the much over-praised Latika Bourke found the Dastaryi donation was because it was listed on the Parliamentary register of interests. But politics is perception. And taking money from the same sorts of people as Carr while spruiking the same lines might produce an unfair conclusion on the part of an onlooker, especially when Carr is still an influential figure in the NSW Labor Right.

Former WA Labor Premier Geoff Gallop had to forbid his MPs to meet with lobbyist Brian Burke over a decade ago because you just never knew who was really paying for Brian’s free advice. Politicians as canny as Dastaryi, Burke and Clare won’t need to be told to disassociate themselves from Beijing Bob or to disregard his policy thought bubbles – steering clear of Carr is now just good sense.

Or do we really need to be educated again on the infinite gullibility of the idealistic? One Bill Hartley was, after all, more than enough.

Luke Walladge is a former senior Labor staffer


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