Liberals warned of MP’s China links

 

SENIOR Liberals say they were told the intelligence community warned the party against preselecting Gladys Liu for the seat of Chisholm before this year's federal election.

Two state Liberal MPs and a former senior staffer have confirmed to the Herald Sun they were told in 2018 that "men in grey suits" had warned a senior party official there were concerns about Ms Liu's links to the Chinese Communist Party and that it would not be wise for the Liberal Party to preselect her.

The Hong Kong-born MP yesterday said she should have chosen her words "better" in a trainwreck television interview, but hit out at "deeply offensive" questions about her loyalty to Australia.

Labor called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to assure voters Ms Liu was a "fit and proper" person to be in parliament after a string of revelations about her links to groups infamous for pushing pro-Beijing propaganda.

Ms Liu yesterday admitted to previous associations with three groups with links to China's covert political influence operations.

Liberal MP Phillip Thompson hugs Gladys Liu in the House of Representatives Chamber on September 11, 2019, the day after her trainwreck interview on Sky News. Picture: Kym Smith.
Liberal MP Phillip Thompson hugs Gladys Liu in the House of Representatives Chamber on September 11, 2019, the day after her trainwreck interview on Sky News. Picture: Kym Smith.

The Herald Sun can now reveal senior Liberal figures were party to a conversation about the intelligence community's concerns about Ms Liu with a party official in the lead-up to the Chisholm preselection in October last year.

According to one source present at the meeting, the party official said intelligence community sources had told him: "We can't tell you what to do but we don't think it would be a good idea."

The sources agreed the party official had not said if the concerns had been raised by ASIO, but they said the official led them to believe the official had spoken with the intelligence community.

A source at the meeting said the official later discussed the concerns on another occasion.

The conversation about potential agency concerns came several months after then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull withdrew from a Chinese New Year function he was due to attend in Chisholm over concerns about the VIP guest list.

A source said the then Chisholm MP Julia Banks was not told why Mr Turnbull skipped the event for a Chinese New Year function in the CBD with then opposition leader Matthew Guy.

It comes after the Herald Sun reported last month that Liberal sources had grave concerns about Ms Liu's associates who were flagged with senior government officials as early as 2015.

Senate crossbencher Rex Patrick said yesterday Ms Liu needed to be investigated by security agencies.

Labor senate leader Penny Wong called on Mr Morrison to assure Australians that Ms Liu was a "fit and proper" person to be in Parliament, saying it was the Liberal Party's "Sam Dastyari" test.

 

james.campbell@news.com.au