Labor leader Anthony Albanese has hauled in the ASIO spy chief Mike Burgess for a meeting at Parliament House amid an unprecedented escalation.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has hauled in the ASIO spy chief Mike Burgess for a meeting at Parliament House amid an unprecedented escalation of the war of words over claims he is China’s “Manchurian candidate.”
Amid warnings from current and former spy chiefs that the politicisation of national security is “not helpful”, Mr Albanese requested a meeting with ASIO director general Mike Burgess on Thursday.
Mr Albanese confirmed his discussion in a personal explanation to Parliament straight after question time but did not detail the circumstances of his meeting with Mr Burgess.
In those remarks, he addressed news.com.au‘s report that he had attended a gala function for the Chau Chak Wing foundation in Sydney in 2020 that the Prime Minister declined to attend.
For the first time Mr Albanese revealed he had asked for advice from ASIO before attending the function.
“I also want to put on the record, somewhat unusually, that today I met with the Director-General of ASIO, which I do regularly, and I sought his permission to state to the parliament that I consulted the Director-General of ASIO before accepting that invitation,’ Mr Albanese said.
“I did that, and I do regularly consult with our national security agencies, because I take their role seriously as Leader of the Opposition and the abuse of national security provisions has been quite a disgrace and is undermining Australia’s national interests.”
Government sources confirm Mr Burgess was not in the building to speak to the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister or the Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews.
News.com.au understands Mr Burgess attended Parliament at the Labor leader’s request. ASIO have been contacted for comment.
Wealthy Chinese businessman Chau Chak Wing was named under parliamentary privilege by a Labor senator this week as the suspected “puppeteer” behind a foiled foreign interference plot to get political candidates elected.
Victorian Labor senator Kimberley Kitching used parliamentary privilege on Monday night to ask the ASIO chief whether the Chinese businessman was the mystery man involved in the alleged plot.
By naming Dr Chau under parliamentary privilege on Monday night, Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching cannot be sued for defamation.
“I am reliably informed that the puppeteer mentioned in your case study in your annual threat assessment speech given last week is Chau Chak Wing,” Senator Kitching said.
“I believe it to be Chau Chak Wing. Are you able to confirm that it is Chau Chak Wing?”
Mr Burgess declined to comment, telling the hearing “Senator as I said before, I will not comment on speculation of who is and who isn’t targets, in general or in specific, as you are asking me there.”
Dr Chau did not attend the gala in person, as a result of border closures. He does not read or speak English but has been a generous donor to both the major political parties and the universities.
The Chinese billionaire has slammed the allegations raised under parliamentary privilege as baseless.
“I am shocked and disappointed at the baseless and reckless claim made by Senator Kimberley Kitching during a Senate estimates hearing on Monday,” Dr Chau said in a statement.
“It is always unfortunate when elected representatives use the shield of parliamentary privilege as a platform to vilify and attack Australian citizens without producing a shred of evidence.
“I am a businessman and philanthropist. I have never had any involvement or interest in interfering with the democratic election process in Australia.
“In 2017, the ABC and Nine journalist Nick McKenzie made a similar allegation in a Four Corners report. The Federal Court subsequently awarded me very substantial damages, which I donated to charity.”
Dr Chau was awarded $590,000 after a judge found he was defamed by an ABC program, which the court found falsely portrayed him as a Communist Party member.
On Wednesday the Prime Minister was forced to withdraw a remark where he called deputy Labor leader Richard Marles a “Manchurian candidate”.
He repeated the slur pointing at the Leader of the Opposition before being forced to withdraw.
Earlier, the Prime Minister ramped up his personal attacks during another fiery Question Time on Thursday declaring “all he is is small”.
“The leader of the Labor Party is the Chinese government’s pick at this election,” Mr Morrison said.
“If there is any country out there, including in our region, who think they can bully and coerce Australia, they won’t find a preferred candidate in this Prime Minister.
“They might find one on the other side, and they certainly seem to have found one.
“But they won’t find one in this Prime Minister.
“You cannot be weak-kneed if you want to do this job.
“Strength in this job is what this job is all about.
“The leader of the Labor Party likes to think he’s a small target. That’s his plan. All he is is small. And he is diminishing by the day. He is diminishing by the day.”
The furore follows ASIO’s director-general Mike Burgess own warning on the ABC’s 7:30 in an unusual and rare intervention in the public debate by the spy chief.
“Foreign interference is against all members of parliament, so it doesn’t go off to one particular party or the other; it’s kind of equal opportunity in that regards,” Mr Burgess said.