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Foreign Influence in Local Government Elections

27 September 2018
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, the Greens have been trying to raise this issue and elevate it above the slanging match that has been coming from Government members in an absolutely outrageous, cowardly, naïve and incredibly foolish response to what is a serious situation and serious threat to democracy in Tasmania that is unfolding before us. 

The media has been reporting things that ASIO and international and national security organisations are pointing out in spades in reports such as that from the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission report from August this year titled 'China's Overseas United Front Work - Background and Implications for the United States'. Why would we care about implications for the United States? Because it has a special chapter on Australia and New Zealand and points out that Australia and New Zealand are exemplars of the performance success of the United Front work overseas, and that they are looking at what is unfolding in our countries as an example of where they do not want to go.

This is serious. Wake up, people. This is our democracy and what we have in Tasmania, here in Hobart, is a general manager's roll which has allowed 589 non-Australian citizens to be enrolled to vote in the next Hobart City Council elections.

Mr Hidding - It is the law.

Dr WOODRUFF - It is the law but it needs to be fixed because this is dangerous. It is a threat when 589 votes can be recruited - as we now know has been done by Yongbei Tang - to vote for her, because Yongbei Tang may well be an Australian citizen but she is also a cadre of the Chinese Communist Party. 

Government members interjecting.

Dr WOODRUFF - Mr Deputy Speaker, would you please stop the conversation across the Chamber because I am hoping they will pay some attention to what I am saying since I am the person who is standing here talking.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order. There has been the issue raised and we do need to speak to the question.

Dr WOODRUFF - Mr Deputy Speaker, what has unfolded for us in the Mercury newspaper today makes it really clear that Ms Tang is an editor and publisher of Chinese News Tasmania but she denied writing an article in her own paper, which she publishes and edits, an article that did not have a by-line underneath it. One can only presume that she was in charge of that.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, I am listening for a reason we should adjourn, not why it is important to adjourn this debate for another debate. I am entitled to make a decision as soon as I have heard enough.

Dr WOODRUFF - Mr Deputy Speaker, this is a matter of national security. It is unfolding on Tasmanian soil. It is a matter of Tasmanian security, which is why we are forced to bring it in today. We were shut down from having this as a matter of public importance.

Our Premier is so naïve that he made recent comments, as reported in the Australian newspaper. He was quoted in China as pushing the case for Hobart to be a supply base for China's presence in the Antarctic. We have to understand what is happening. The Chinese Communist Party is using Tasmania as a convenient launching pad to move into the Antarctic, to create a bridge to exploit minerals. They have already been identified by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute as undergoing undeclared military activity in the Antarctic and ongoing mineral exploration. The Chinese Government has also said it reserves the right to make a claim on Antarctica in the future. This is not the Australian Government's position.

We know that Ms Yongbei Tang, who is standing for the Hobart City Council, is a Chinese Communist Party cadre. She was on the board of Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China. Let us call it what it is, the 'we own Taiwan committee', which is about China taking over ownership of Taiwan. That is exactly what the purpose of that is. That group is considered to be the main united front group in Australia.

Mr Deputy Speaker, this is a serious matter. It deserves a full conversation with every single member in this Chamber. That is okay, the Greens are bringing this on because we are concerned about Ms Tang actively recruiting Tasmanian students. We are concerned this is a loophole in the law, which, as Ms Tang says,

'This is not just what is happening this year. We can springboard forward to the next time and we can get more people in four years' time.'

This is about plugging a hole in a situation that is deeply concerning for our democracy.