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Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Page: 9645

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (15:31): Yes, it is. I want to put on the record that I have never historically supported a royal commission into the banking sector, because traditionally the banks—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I beg your pardon, Senator Bernardi. If you'd just take your seat, I think Senator McKim has a point of order.

Senator McKim: Yes, I do, Deputy President. Could I just ask for clarification? By my count, there have been five speakers on this motion and normally you would then put the question and allow me to rise to take note of—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator McKim, I clarified with Senator Bernardi. I was going to put the question. I asked whether it was on the same matter. He clarified to me that, yes, it was. We have a speakers list here and the last speaker is from the crossbench, which Senator Bernardi is a member of. Please continue, Senator Bernardi.

Senator BERNARDI: Whilst I don't support a royal commission into the banks, I understand that the government has chosen to do it for politically expedient motives. But there is a very important area that I think the government should explore. When most people want to borrow money or access funds, they go to a bank. They play a legitimate role in our financial system. However, I'm deeply concerned that there are some people who occupy these Senate benches who think it's okay to go to a billionaire benefactor associated with the People's Republic of China and the Chinese government in order to access funds to pay for their bills. If you want a royal commission that is going to make a meaningful difference to Australia, Australia's body politic and its way of life, it shouldn't be into the banks; it should be into the whisper, the stench, the migration of corruption into our body politic and the agents of influence from foreign governments who are openly and wilfully seeking to influence the politics in this country.

We know on the record that there is a compromised individual on the other side of this chamber who has been compromised by agents of influence from the Chinese government. That is a travesty for this body politic. It is a travesty that those on the Labor side seek to cover up Senator Dastyari's involvement and engagement in undermining our national security issues. He thinks it's okay to have his $1,600 or $1,800 travel bill picked up by an agent of influence from the Chinese government. That is where a true royal commission into money needs to come from—not the banks, which operate in a sanctioned way and operate within a legal framework, notwithstanding they may have some failings. It is in this shadowy underworld where agents of influence from the Chinese government are not only seeking to compromise politicians in this place but seeking to compromise our educational institutions and seeking to compromise the major political parties.

I congratulate the government on their moves today in seeking to redress some of these influences. But I do want to put on the record that, when I read that the Attorney-General had offered security briefings to major political parties about political donations and the potential for compromise, I wrote to him as a crossbencher, of a very modest political party, seeking a briefing on what we could do to prevent that. Some months have passed, and I regret the Attorney-General hasn't even sought to respond to my request. I can only presume that he knows there is no undue influence within the Australian Conservatives or he knows that it is simply the major parties that have a problem with being compromised by foreign agents—but whatever.

If the government are serious about this, and if the Labor Party are serious about trying to identify where our financial system is going wrong, look no further than those who are on the take, those who get their bills paid by agents of influence from the Chinese government, or they get their marching orders and their scripts and they go and have Chinese-media press conferences, undermining not only Australia's national sovereign position but their own political party's position, or they go around to a compromised Chinese billionaire's house and warn him that he might be under observation or surveillance by one of our national intelligence agencies.

This is where the real scandal is in our financial system. This is where the real scandal is in our body politic. You can score all the cheap shots you like off each other, but until you address the elephant in the room—and that is Senator Sam Dastyari—then we are pushing it uphill. I can tell you that now. While Senator Dastyari sits in this place, you cannot be sure that what he is saying is his own words; it could be scripted words from the people who are pulling the strings. If you want to clean up the financial system, if you want to clean up the body politic, you will cut the financial ties to the People's Republic of China. That is critical; that is pressing; and we should have a royal commission into that rather than one into the banks. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.