The Chinese firm sponsored 12 trips for Australian federal politicians over the past eight years – more than any other company, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei has paid for more trips taken by Australian federal politicians than any other corporation in the past eight years, new research shows.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a geopolitical thinktank, analysed the parliamentary register of MPs and senators’ declared gifts and interests over the past eight years.
Huawei paid for 12 trips to China over the period, making it the biggest corporate sponsor, providing both flights and accommodation.
Second was the Australian miner Fortescue Metals, which paid for four trips to China and one to Papua New Guinea.
Liberal politicians received seven of the 12 trips, with the remaining five going to Labor. But Labor parliamentarians took more sponsored trips to China overall, leading the Liberals 37 to 25.
ASPI defined “corporate” sponsors as for-profit groups, but the largest sponsor globally was the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, which paid for 26 Liberals and 17 Labor politicians’ travel over the period.
Huawei says the trips are “educational” opportunities for Australian politicians.
The new ASPI research comes as the parliament considers whether to allow Huawei, which intelligence analysts say is linked to the Chinese government, to participate in Australia’s 5G network.
Huawei Australia head John Lord strongly denies links to the Chinese state.
“We believe that companies like Huawei are privately owned, not owned by any committee or any government, and should be looked at and put into a competitive tendering,” Mr Lord told Fairfax Media.
“We're happy to have our equipment tested, we're happy to have it analysed.”
There are politicians in both major parties who want to ban the company from the 5G network, but there is internal division. The decision will be made in the coming weeks.
“While Huawei’s sponsorship of politicians’ travel to China doesn’t breach any rules, the number of trips it has funded raises questions about whether MPs should be able to accept any funded travel from corporations,” ASPI co-author Fergus Hanson wrote in an accompanying blog.
“At a minimum, it raises questions about the appropriateness of allowing politicians to accept travel paid for by companies like Huawei that are lobbying to participate in Australia’s 5G network—a critical piece of national infrastructure.”
The ASPI researchers also recommend making the parliamentary register of interests more accessible, so politicians would be more accountable.
The register is online, but contains scans of politicians’ often-scrawled handwriting and is not a searchable database.
A group of journalists from a range of publications is working to properly digitise the register.