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Tony Abbott’s Office Helped Secure Donation from “Agent of Foreign Country”

The office of former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, reportedly assisted an Australian-based Chinese billionaire who had been labelled an “agent of a foreign country” by ASIO to donate to the Liberal Party in 2016.

Former-Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and Chinese Billionaire, Huang Xiangmo, with the text "Foreign Agent Donations" foregrounded.

Mr. Abbott was reportedly warned by ASIO about the property developer, Huang Xiangmo, and his links to the Chinese Communist Party in 2015. Mr. Abbott was still prime minister at the time. When asked on about the former prime minister’s engagement with Mr. Huang when he was seeking to donate during the 2016 election campaign, a spokesperson for Mr. Abbott’s office stated:

“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…Specific donations are a matter for the relevant division of the Liberal Party."​

The spokesperson stated that Mr. Huang lived in Mr. Abbott’s electorate and had met with him several times. When asked if Mr. Abbott had encouraged Mr Huang to donate to specific electorate campaigns the spokesperson said: “No.”

However, sources familiar with the matter reportedly told the Sydney Morning Herald that Mr. Abbott’s office had directly contacted at least one Liberal campaign team to discuss Mr. Huang’s donation offer.

During the media scandal regarding Mr. Huang’s relationship with former senator, Sam Dastyari, then-Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, also described Mr. Huang as an “agent of a foreign country.” Mr Huang denied any impropriety or involvement with thee Chinese Communist Party.

Following media inquiries into Mr. Abbott’s office's alleged soliciting donations from Mr. Huang, Liberal MP, Andrew Hastie, stated that he had instructed the WA Liberal Party to return $10,000 after the funds had been traced to Chaoshan 1 Pty Ltd, a company controlled by Mr. Huang.

Mr. Hastie was also the chair of federal parliament’s national security committee, which at the time was engaged in reforms proposed by Mr. Turnbull to counter foreign interference, including interference conducted by groups involved in Chinese Communist Party lobbying and through donations.

The $10,000 donated to the WA Liberal Party was one one of several payments made by Mr Huang's companies to Liberal campaigns during the 2016 election. These donations totalled $140,000, with Mr. Huang’s companies also donating a total of $85,000 to Labor campaigns.

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