Federal Liberals insist it is not as politically damaging for them to have received donations from Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo as it is for Labor’s Sam Dastyari.
Senator Dastyari resigned on Tuesday because of continued pressure over his links to China, including to businessman Huang Xiangmo.
Federal Labor stopped taking foreign donations last year but the Liberal Party has not adopted the same approach.
Disclosure documents uncovered by the ABC reveal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann received a $20,000 donation from Mr Huang last year.
The money was used for Senator Cormann’s election campaign.
Senator Cormann argued all appropriate disclosures were made.
“All of those donations are lawful and declared,” he said.
“As far as the Liberal Party donations are concerned they are lawfully received and declared consistent with our disclosure rules.”
The Finance Minister also confirmed he had met Mr Huang.
“I have met many Australians, including many people around Australia, including that particular gentleman,” Senator Cormann told reporters this afternoon.
But he insisted there was no evidence of the Coalition being influenced.
“Let me be very clear that the Turnbull Government and every single member of the Turnbull Government stands up for our national interest, unlike former Senator Sam Dastyari,” Senator Cormann said.
Difference is how the money was used, minister says
Social Services Minister Christian Porter said it was obvious Mr Huang had donated to both sides of politics but argued there was a clear difference because Senator Dastyari used the money he received to pay bills and expenses, not as a campaign donation.
“Money was forwarded from the businessman to Senator Dastyari to pay personal expenses … these were monies to pay legal bills and travel expenses,” he said.
“There will be both sides of politics who have received donations from the individual in question, but the essential issue with Senator Dastyari is that it wasn’t a donation, it was a personal gift.”
Mr Huang’s company, Yuhu Group, has disclosed donations to Christopher Pyne’s electorate of Sturt and Michael Sukkar’s electoral of Deakin in 2016.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said she only recalled meeting Mr Huang once, at the opening of the Australia-China Research Centre at the University of Technology Sydney.
“I was informed that Mr Huang had donated money to that centre,” she said.
Ms Bishop said the event was also attended by Labor figures including Tanya Plibersek, Chris Bowen and Sam Dastyari.
“The whole New South Wales Labor Party seemed to be there, but I was invited in my capacity as Foreign Minister by the vice-chancellor of UTS.
“I believe that is when I met Mr Huang. I have no recollection of any other meeting with him, although it is possible he could have been at events I have been present at as well,” Ms Bishop said.