Australia is the dominant aid provider for Pacific nations, but had historically not focused on infrastructure. It would seem that China saw an opportunity, and has now completed one hundred projects in the Pacific including power stations, telecommunications, hospitals, schools, office buildings and convention centres. China had helped train over 6000 professionals, brought 1200 students to China, and it would appear in response to Australia and Pacific Nations concern the Chinese vice minister of foreign affairs Zheng Zeguang, responded:
“The Pacific island region is not the sphere of influence of any country,” said Zheng on Tuesday, and called for “the relevant sides” to “abandon Cold War mentality”.
China says no country should try to obstruct its Pacific ‘friendship’
Beijing:As Chinese president Xi Jinping prepares to meet in Port Moresby with eight Pacific island leaders, Beijing has warned no country should try to obstruct its “friendship and cooperation” with Pacific nations that have already received US$3 billion in Chinese investment.
A battle of diplomacy dollars is rapidly escalating in the Pacific, with Australia, Japan, the US and China all expected to pledge to lift infrastructure and aid funding to the impoverished region in the next week as world leaders gather in Papua New Guinea for the APEC summit.
Xi will first meet with the eight Pacific island leaders who recognise Beijing diplomatically, and not Taiwan, before the weekend APEC meeting. It is the first visit by a Chinese head of state to Papua New Guinea, which was once an Australian colony.
“No country should try to obstruct the friendship and cooperation… China has no intention to touch the cheese of any country, instead China is committed to make the pie of cooperation larger,” said Chinese vice minister of foreign affairs Zheng Zeguang, when asked about the expansion of Australian aid in the Pacific.
One hundred Chinese projects had been completed in the Pacific including power stations, telecommunications, hospitals, schools, office buildings and convention centres, said Zheng.
China had helped train over 6000 professionals, brought 1200 students to China, and climate change was an “important area of cooperation”, he said.
Australia is the dominant aid provider for Pacific nations, but had historically not focused on infrastructure. Last week Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled a $2 billion infrastructure fund for Pacific telecommunications, energy, transport and water projects.
Morrison described the Pacific island nations as “family” and “our patch”.
“The Pacific island region is not the sphere of influence of any country,” said Zheng on Tuesday, and called for “the relevant sides” to “abandon Cold War mentality”.
He also used the term “family”, and said China wanted to cooperate with third-parties in the Pacific island region.
Trilateral development cooperation between China and Australia in the Pacific was discussed by foreign affairs minister Marise Payne and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at a meeting in Beijng last Thursday.
It is understood such cooperation projects are more likely to centre on education and health programs, rather than more sensitive telecommunications infrastructure.
Morrison has told international media including CNBC and Bloomberg this week that Australia would expand what it does in the Pacific in partnership with “many other countries – whether its the US or whether its China or other countries”.
Payne told the Senate on Tuesday that she had proposed technical exchanges between the department of foreign affairs and trade and China’s new oversight body for its sprawling overseas aid program.
From a multi-tower development up to 16-storeys for 500 university students with a mere affordable housing for 62 Aboriginal families on Aboriginal land to escalate to 24-storey high towers to accommodate an additional 100 students … does not seem to add up, does it?
-no concrete evidence the “affordable housing” portion of the development would go ahead!
-currently no restriction on the Title guaranteeing the 62 dwellings being provided as “affordable housing”
-AHC is not yet registered as a community housing provider; a housing provider has not been nominated
-Deicorp requested its developer fees be waived due to the project public benefit
DEICORP HAS A HISTORY …
KIRAWEE THE BRICKPIT
From Kirawee in the Shire it is referred to as ‘the pits’ or worse!
DEICORP APARTMENT DEVELOPMENT ERSKINEVILLE WITH EXTENSIVE DAMP PROBLEMS
HAVE you ever heard of a building a mere six years old with extensive damp?
DOES it seem credible that with such a new building that the extensive damp problems are due to a lack of maintenance from residents?
WHY would you suppose Deicorp would have recently changed its name to the company’s ACN number?
‘DeiCorp is the developer which also has the contract to rebuild Redfern’s Aboriginal heartland the Block, and different offshoots of the company with similar names and the same directors are developing other residential projects throughout Sydney.’
Current projects of Deicorp including the Crowle Estate Meadowbank/West Ryde
‘None of this is right’: Development plans spark fury at The Block
Towers up to 24-storeys high – housing up to 600 students – are now being proposed for The Block in Redfern, with no guarantees that affordable housing promised for indigenous families will eventuate.
In an October report, the Department of Planning warned it had not received concrete evidence that affordable housing would proceed as part of the $70 million development.
The Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC), which owns the site, and developer Deicorp have increased the lucrative student housing portion of the development, known as the Pemulwuy Project.
Last March they proposed a multi-tower development up to 16-storeys high for 500 university students, in addition to the affordable housing for 62 Aboriginal families, a gym, retail and a childcare centre. Now their latest plans are for the 24-storey high towers to accommodate up to 600 students.
In assessing the project, the department recommended its approval. However, it warned that the developers had failed to present concrete evidence the affordable housing portion of the development would go ahead.
“There is currently no restriction on title guaranteeing the 62 dwellings … being provided as affordable housing,” the report said.
“AHC is not yet registered as a community housing provider and a housing provider has not been nominated.”
The comments follow a request by Deicorp to have its developer fees waived due to the project’s public benefit.
Deicorp argued it should be exempt due to the open space, public art, $28 million in affordable housing and $3.5 million childcare centre included in the plans.
But the department found the applicant had “not provided any evidence to support the predicted costs” and needed to provide firmer guarantees.
Meanwhile, the federal government has revealed that the Aboriginal Housing Company turned down a $5 million grant to ensure affordable housing was part of the development.
An AHC spokesman denied it had knocked back the grant.
“The affordable housing component will be built first ensuring the community realises true benefit at the earliest stage possible,” he said.
Tensions have reignited within the Aboriginal community over the student housing plans.
“None of this is justified and none of this is right,” said Jenny Munro, a Wiradjuri elder and vocal opponent of the plans.
“How can the Aboriginal Housing Company even call itself an Aboriginal Housing Company? It’s actually an Asian student housing company, for all intents and purposes,” she said
A bitter feud over the proposal first erupted in 2015 after the AHC took court action to evict an Aboriginal tent embassy camped on the site.
The protestors accused the AHC of pursuing profit over the interests of the community.
At the time,AHC chief executive Mick Mundine insisted the construction of the affordable housing would not be viable without first building the commercial portion.
A peace deal was brokered by Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, who offered the AHC a $5 million grant to secure a loan to guarantee the affordable housing would be built from the outset.
When asked about the status of the grant, the AHC spokesperson said it would become available once the organisation “receives the certificate of occupation”.
But a spokesperson for Mr Scullion said the offer was ultimately not accepted.
“The Aboriginal Housing Company announced in 2017 it had instead partnered with student accommodation provider Atira to develop a new funding model that would allow it to deliver on the core objectives of the Pemulwuy project,” he said.
A final decision on the project will be made the Independent Planning Commission, which will hold a public hearing on Thursday. Ms Munro said she had not been contacted about the meeting.
“I’m the biggest thorn in their side, why would they want me there?” she said.
The Panel will consider 183 public submissions on the proposal, including 171 objections. Of the greatest concern were the height, scale and character of the development.
Among the objectors was the Heritage Council, which argued the student housing should be no higher than six storeys and the bold design was “intrusive” and risked “overwhelming” neighbouring Redfern station.
Carrie Fellner is an investigative reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Malcolm Turnbull’s much-anticipated Q&A interview last week was riddled with untruths. But who knew? Alan Austin shows why this is important.
LAST THURSDAY’S bare-all interview with ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was significant in one curious respect. Turnbull made at least seven seriously false assertions about Australia’s economy. Most of them he repeated. And most were not only untrue but pretty much the antithesis of truth.
But here’s the thing. No-one batted an eyelid. No murmurs of dissent from the audience and not a flicker of concern from host Tony Jones. In fact, one inquisitor – who said he voted against Turnbull – conceded “the economy is ticking along nicely“.
All efforts by the alternative media over the last five years to report Australia’s economy accurately have thus apparently failed.
The most blatant falsehoods seem widely accepted as self-evidently true.
For the record, these are the main deceptions:
1. “I lay claim to creating a million jobs when I was Prime Minister.”
This is easily disproven. Total jobs, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in July 2018, were 12,586,083 million. When he started as PM in September 2015, the total was 11,792,300 million.
That is an increase of 793,783. Not bad. But well short of a million.
claims about job creation are a joke: – unemployment has not reduced during Abbott/Turnbull – one million people want more hours but can’t get them – too many new jobs are casual/labourhire/contract/insecure – 1 in 10 ppl are on temp work visas
2. “Record jobs growth. The strongest, in fact, in our nation’s history.”
No, it isn’t. Through the entire Coalition period before Turnbull was axed, the workforce grew by 1,118,618. That was over 59 months, which works out at an increase relative to population growth of 1.21% each year.
That’s also not bad. But nowhere near any record. It is just below Paul Keating’s rate over his 51 months. It is well shy of Bob Hawke’s rate of 1.30% per annum in 105 months. And nowhere near John Howard’s impressive 1.33% over his 140-month tenure.
3. “Of course, the creation was all done by people in business.”
No, it wasn’t.Public service jobs actually increased under Turnbull.
The ABS file on direct public sector jobs shows the total numbers of government employees and the change each year, thus:
Jim Chalmers MP
“We’re not just sitting around waiting for Govt to fall in our lap because Turnbull’s hopeless. We’re determined to lead the policy conversation on how we get the right kind of economic growth in this country.” A snippet of my @SkyNewsAust interview #auspol
The latest annual GDP growth numbers show Australia managing just 3.4%. Given the current global boom, this is actually quite ordinary.
Israel, Malaysia, Thailand and Hungary are above 4%. Poland, Indonesia, Turkey and Chile are above 5%. China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Cambodia are above 6%. Iceland is at 7.2%, India is at 8.2% and Ireland is at 9.0%.
Australia now ranks 91st in the world onGDP growth and 12th in the OECD. For several quarters during the Rudd era, Australia had the OECD’s highest GDP growth.
Thanks to Turnbull and his colleagues, those days are now gone.
5. “… Reduced personal income tax.”
Verifying this is tricky because of all the variables, including wage rises, increases in the workforce and changing tax rates. But the Tax Office’s annual report is our friend.
Total income tax collected from individual taxpayers was $193,863 million in 2016-17.
Now, if the tax rates remained the same, we would expect this to go up 2.85% to account for the increase in jobs. Plus, another 2.1% increase to account for wage growth. Barring any taxation rate changes, we would expect the total income tax collected in 2017-18 to have risen to $203,575 million.
But it didn’t. In fact, it was up much more to $206,993 million. That is no reduction.
We also see that the tax on individuals other than PAYE taxpayers – that is, those who live off professional fees, profits and dividends — has gone up only 2.32%.
Perhaps this what Turnbull meant. Income taxes for the masses have gone up substantially. But taxes on his constituency have been reduced.
Richard Di Natale
So Turnbull thinks we can have huge corporate tax cuts and income tax cuts and achieve a surplus and we’ll all magically be better off. Trickle down economics doesn’t work. This is fantasy land stuff from a desperate PM.
Engineering construction work done in both private and public is valued, thus:
I’ve read a few #QandA pieces, I gather it is not worth watching, and not one question was put to Turnbull as to why he decimated the nbn?
You know that largest infrastructure project that our nation needed for its future? SIGH!
In case you missed #QandA last night: Turnbull can feel his own power, it hums consolingly within him, and Thursday night suggests he intends to use it, on his own terms, and in his own time https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/nov/08/malcolm-turnbull-lets-himself-off-the-leash-but-self-criticism-nowhere-to-be-seen?CMP=share_btn_tw … #auspol
COMMUNITY ACTION ALLIANCE FOR NSW (CAAN) Analysis of the “Analysis” …
WOW! This is the first time we have seen a reference to ‘government policies’ - apart from the Unconventional Economist – that lay at the core of the Housing Affordability Crisis for Australians!
But, of course, there is no reference here to the huge negative impact of the:
-the FIRB ruling allowing developers to sell 100% of their projects to foreign buyers
-no Anti-Money Laundering Legislation for the Real Estate Sector
NOR does Dr Bullock, Reserve Bank Assistant Governor refer to what led to the huge spike in the cost of housing was the wealthy overseas competition through the onshore Proxy laundering black money in Australian real estate forcing Australians into higher mortgage debt to compete!
THE CONSEQUENCE being that many aspiring Australian First Home Buyers are locked out of “Home Ownership”
The Australian and State Governments ought restore the build for more public housing and subsidise build-to-rent to provide more secure tenure for rental households to later enter the housing market! And not that promoted so far to make Aussies life-long tenants!
VIEW COMMUNITY ACTION ALLIANCE FOR NSW (CAAN) WEBSITE FOR THE FACTS!
Australia’s household debt-to-income ratio is a regular source of scary headlines. Every pet shop galah knows we’re among the most indebted people on Earth – sometimes it seems we’re almost proud of it.
What’s much less understood is that we’re being driven to the top of the debt pile by government policy. And, in the process, it is effectively government policy to make our housing among the world’s most expensive.
Low interest rates since the GFC have encouraged much greater borrowing throughout the developed world.
Throw cheap money at Australians and they’re guaranteed to compete for housing, driving up prices.
The Reserve Bank publishes updates a graph each month effectively underlining the relationship between our debt and housing prices.
But what pushes Australian household debt higher than most is a distinguishing government policy: The vast majority of our rental housing is provided by households – “mum and dad” landlords. Government and build-to-rent housing is relatively rare here, unlike in much of the developed world.
Australia’s percentage of government and non-profit housing has been steadily run down from more than 7 per cent of total housing in 1991 to 4.2 per cent in 2016.
At the same time, other attempts to make housing affordable for low-income earners and those on social welfare have concentrated on subsidies for private landlords.
Given that the mortgage is the biggest debt for the vast majority of households, adding borrowing for investment properties inevitably boosts total debt.
And, perversely, relying on households to provide the vast majority of rental accommodation also is expensive for the federal budget.
Peter Mares, author of No Place Like Home: Repairing Australia’s Housing Crisis, says the government is subsidising the private rental market ineffectively and inefficiently through negative gearing, the capital gains tax discount and Commonwealth Rent Assistance, collectively costing more than $16 billion a year in forgone tax revenue and budget outlays.
The reliance on private rental accommodation has caught the Reserve Bank’s eye as well. The problem was spelt out by assistant governor Michele Bullock in a recent speech when she explained why our household debt-to-income ratio has increased by more than most.
“The increase in household debt over the past few decades has been largely due to a rise in mortgage debt,” Dr Bullock said.
“And an important reason for the high level of mortgage debt in Australia is that the rental stock is mostly owned by households. Australians borrow not only to finance their own homes but also to invest in housing as an asset. This is different to many other countries where a significant proportion of the rental stock is owned by corporations or co-operatives.”
Dr Bullock provided a useful graph to illustrate the point. There are three countries with higher debt ratios than Australia – but their owner-occupier mortgages are tax deductible, making them cheaper to service. Every other country had a higher percentage of government and corporate housing ownership.
“There is a clear tendency for countries where more of the housing stock is owned by households to have a higher household debt-to-income ratio,” she said.
Australia’s real housing crisis isn’t for those who find buying a strain or who have to buy a less desirable property than they’d like, but those on low incomes who will never be able to buy and are forced to always rent in an expensive private market.
If governments – state and federal – took housing affordability seriously, that $16 billion a year in existing effective rental subsidies could build a lot more social housing or more efficiently subsidise build-to-rent institutional investors that operate on longer time frames and can provide more secure tenure for rental households.
Housing affordability and reliance on private rental are bigger issues than just the financial stability question raised by high household debt. The social costs of short leases and insecurity are large but unquantified.
Peter Mares has cited Canada as an example of a country prepared to get serious about housing affordability.
“Ottawa is spending C$4.8 billion to increase the quality and supply of public and social housing provided by provincial governments and community organisations, and putting another C$11.1 billion into a National Housing Co-Investment Fund offering low-interest loans to build affordable housing for the private rental market,” he has reported.
But Australia continues to muddle along with shrinking public housing and token efforts around the fringes for financing non-profit affordable housing.
They are policies that are going nowhere towards solving the problem.
When Patrick Ho was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 18, 2017, the former Hong Kong government official made one phone call: to James B. Biden, the younger brother of the former U.S. vice president, an acquaintance whose number he had on hand.
The well-connected Hong Konger asked Biden for a lawyer.
Ho was going to need a good one. The U.S. Department of Justice was planning to indict him for using his connections at the United Nations to bribe a U.N. General Assembly president along with several African government officials.
The arrest attracted media attention because of Ho’s link to a powerful Chinese energy conglomerate, CEFC China Energy. Ho ran the energy company’s think tank, China Energy Fund Committee, an NGO affiliated with the U.N. that had offices in New York, Virginia and Hong Kong.
The former Hong Kong official was indicted on a number of foreign bribery and money-laundering charges, but the investigation surrounding Ho, his nonprofit and its parent company, and the United Nations wasn’t about just corruption. A flurry of recent court filings reveal that the government collected at least some of Ho’s communications under a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a secret order used to monitor suspected foreign agents.
And records related to the case — including documents submitted by Ho’s own attorney — now connect Ho’s alleged payments to promotion of a major Beijing foreign policy push called the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature venture advancing investment and infrastructure projects around the world. Belt and Road isn’t about only inking business deals; it offers a sweeping vision of a China-centric political and economic global order, one in which countries depend on China, not the West, for prosperity.
China’s influence operations have been getting high-level attention in the Trump administration, particularly as it attempts to fend off allegations of collusion with Russia. In September, speaking at the United Nations, President Trump himself accused China of meddling in U.S. affairs, and in a high-profile speech on China the following month, Vice President Mike Pence asserted that the United States believes Beijing is seeking to “interfere in the domestic policies of this country” as part a wide-scale influence operation.
Ho’s case may illustrate another, more serious aspect of Beijing’s operations abroad: an attempt to influence the most prominent symbol of the global rules-based order, the United Nations. And the Ho case is not an isolated event. Since 2015, U.S. officials have successfully prosecuted two other related cases of China-linked nonprofits being used to funnel money to U.N officials.
Yet the Ho case also may illustrate a key dilemma for the U.S. government as it attempts to expose foreign agents operating in the United States: While the Trump administration may be eager to prove Beijing is conducting a global influence campaign, it’s often easier to convict someone of financial crimes.
The Department of Justice and Ho’s lawyers declined to comment on any aspect of his case.
Regardless of the prosecution’s arguments in court, Western intelligence officials says Ho’s case fits a broader pattern. Beijing, they argue, is deploying private companies, billionaires, spy agencies, and even charities to achieve its political agenda abroad.
“The Chinese don’t think of it as bribery and corruption,” said one former senior U.S. intelligence official. “They think about it as investment, whether it is at the U.N. or elsewhere.”
* * *
Patrick Ho was born and raised in Hong Kong, a former British colony, but he has long operated inside Beijing’s political orbit. He first emerged on the scene in the 1990s as a delegate to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing, an important arm of the United Front, one of the Communist Party’s political influence agencies. He went on to serve on Beijing’s handpicked task force charged with overseeing Hong Kong’s handover in 1997 to mainland Chinese sovereignty. His service was rewarded when he was appointed as Hong Kong’s minister of home affairs, a position he held from 2002 to 2007.
In 2011, Ho assumed leadership of the Hong Kong-based nonprofit China Energy Fund Committee, founded and funded by the ostensibly private CEFC China Energy, and obtained U.N. accreditation almost immediately, a status granting outside nonprofits access to U.N. grounds, events and personnel. China is a leading member of the committee that grants accreditation and tends to stonewall applications from human rights NGOs or other organizations that might place political pressure on China. The China Energy Fund Committee faced no such difficulty.
The U.N. status gave Ho’s Hong Kong organization, which also has offices in New York City and Arlington, Va., immediate credibility. The committee’s website and print publications were emblazoned with its U.N.-affiliated status, and Ho oftentouted the U.N. association. China Energy Fund’s website (now down) lists dozens of high-profile individuals as “expert advisors.” Yet when contacted by Yahoo, several of these individuals said that they had never heard of the organization and had never consented to associate with it in any capacity.
The nonprofit hosted events as well, such as colloquia about U.S.-China policy and talks about China’s development model. Ho gave talks promoting the Belt and Road Initiative and held meetings in his capacity as the organization’s director, cultivating relationships within the U.N. But soon Ho allegedly began using his nonprofit to engage in other activities.
In 2014, three years after the China Energy Fund Committee received U.N. special status, Ho began to offer bribes to U.N. officials, U.S. prosecutors allege. Some of those bribes were aimed at securing business advantages and opportunities for the NGO’s parent company, CEFC China Energy, the private Chinese company with ties to the Chinese government and military, according to court documents.
Ho’s first overtures were to John Ashe, an Antiguan diplomat who served as U.N. General Assembly president from 2013 to 2014. Ho introduced himself to Ashe as the head of a U.N.-affiliated nonprofit, honored Ashe at several of the charity’s events, invited Ashe to Hong Kong and then promised Ashe a contribution in exchange for business assistance after Ashe’s term at the U.N. ended. Ho later sent Ashe $50,000, prosecutors allege. The next year, Ho cultivated a similar relationship with Sam Kutesa, Ashe’s successor as U.N. General Assembly president, eventually sending Kutesa a $500,000 payment that prosecutors say was a bribe.
If the allegations are proved true, Ho wouldn’t have been the only Chinese businessman using the cover of an U.N.-affiliated NGO to bribe Ashe. In August 2013, South South News, a U.N.-accredited nonprofit bankrolled by Macau casino tycoon Ng Lap Seng, began depositing $20,000 each month into Ashe’s bank account. Ng was already on the radar of U.S. authorities: In the 1990s, Senate investigators identified him as the likely conduit of hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal donations to the Democratic National Committee and 1996 Clinton re-election campaign. “Our suspicion was always that Ng had high-level government connections and was protected,” recalled a former U.S. intelligence official familiar with Ng’s activities in the 1990s.
Now almost two decades later, Ng was using South-South News, a small New York-based media outlet that covered development and U.N.-related news, as a front to pay Ashe to get his support for a project to build a U.N. conference center in Macau, according to U.S. prosecutors. In addition to enhancing China’s power and prestige, the establishment of a U.N. conference center in Macau would present China with significant intelligence-gathering and recruitment opportunities, said one former senior U.S. intelligence official.
In 2016, a U.S. attorney involved in prosecuting Ng said that the Chinese government had helped create South-South News and was involved in Ng’s work trying to establish a U.N. conference center in Macau.
The center never materialized, but court filings say that Ng was secretly being investigated as part of a counter-espionage probe of a suspected Chinese spy, and business associate of Ng’s, named Qin Fei; Ng paid to renovate Qin’s $10 million mansion on New York’s Long Island. The mansion was being converted into a conference center for South-South News, Ng’s U.N. nonprofit, said Ng’s lawyer, Hugh Mo, who denies his client had any connection with Chinese intelligence (though Qin, Mo said, was being wiretapped under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act).
U.S. officials believed that Qin was an intelligence officer with the Ministry of State Security, China’s main foreign intelligence agency, said one former U.S. intelligence official, and that he was likely Ng’s handler. The way Beijing operates, said the former official, is that the “billionaire is the icebreaker, and then the Ministry of State Security or United Front goes in behind that person and takes advantages of the opportunities they leave in their wake.”
Ng’s lawyer, however, argues U.S. officials are have a jaundiced view of the relationship between prominent Chinese citizens and the state. “American intel agencies always think everything emanates from top,” he said. “They don’t see all the self-appointed proxies, who take it upon themselves to carry out policy.” Individuals like Ng have “a deeply embedded self-interest,” said Mo, that is also “perceived as patriotic and in line with China’s foreign policy.”
As Ng was funneling money to Ashe, a third effort to influence the U.N. General Assembly president from Antigua was well underway. Sheri Yan, a Chinese-born naturalized American citizen married to a former Australian intelligence analyst, had also cozied up to Ashe. According to emails later uncovered by the FBI, Ashe met secretly with Yan in Hong Kong in April 2012 and agreed to go on Yan’s payroll.
Yan, like Ng Lap Seng, created her own U.N. nonprofit, the Global Sustainability Foundation. And like South-South News, it also received U.N. accreditation and championed the U.N’s millennium goals, an ambitious set of voluntary, country-by-country targets aimed at reducing global poverty. Yan also arranged for bribes to Ashe to benefit three other Chinese businessmen, say U.S. court documents.
The names of the individuals were redacted from court records, but according to a U.S. government document obtained by Yahoo News from Antiguan officials, one of the alleged co-conspirators was a businessman who worked for China National Software and Security Co., a state-owned company with connections to the Chinese military and state security agencies. The businessman allegedly provided a $100,000 bribe to Ashe, facilitated by Yan, according to the document provided to Yahoo. The purpose of the bribe was to encourage the Antiguan government to award China National a contract “to build a national Internet security system” there, according to the indictment.
Attempts to seek comment from China National were unsuccessful.
By 2015, authorities were closing in on the network around Ashe. That year Yan was arrested in the United States, and Australian authorities raided her apartment, suspecting her of working for Beijing. Yan pleaded guilty to bribery charges and was sentenced to 20 months in prison in July 2016. Yan’s husband says his wife, despite pleading guilty to bribery, “has had no connections with any Chinese government agency.”
Ng, the Macau billionaire, was also arrested in 2015 (he was found guilty of bribery in a jury trial and sentenced earlier this year to four years in prison, though he is appealing the sentence and his conviction). Ashe, the center of the bribery scandal, died in a weightlifting accident in June 2016, before he could face trial on tax fraud charges.
That left just Ho, who has been charged under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of funneling $2.9 million to U.N. and African officials, including $2 million in bribes to government officials from Uganda and Chad. Ho has pleaded not guilty on all charges.
* * *
One of the central questions in Ho’s case now is whether his alleged actions were those of a corrupt businessman or, as he contends, simply a well-intentioned NGO representative trying to promote China’s global development plan. The latter may be tough to resolve with some of the allegations. Among other claims, prosecutors say that Ho pursued sanctions-busting transactions with Iran and that he worked with Chinese government security officials to smuggle arms to Libya and Qatar.
Yet Ho is not charged with being a foreign agent.
Those charges can be tough to make without declassifying classified information, something the U.S. government often tries to avoid, said Brian Fleming, a former Justice Department national security prosecutor and a member of the Miller & Chevalier law firm. “If there is a way to try a case without having to declassify classified information, the government is likely going to do that,” he said.
Whether his actions served CEFC China Energy’s interests or Beijing’s may be uncertain, but sometimes those interests overlapped. One alleged payment he allegedly helped facilitate, for example, was intended to help reduce the $1 billion debt that a Chinese state-owned company owed to Chad. The bribe, according to the the criminal complaint, would help CEFC China Energy enter into a partnership with the state company to pursue oil rights in Chad.
CEFC China Energy is not a typical private company, at least by Western standards. The Chinese energy industry is notoriously state-dominated, and the government tightly controls foreign acquisitions. CEFC China Energy, which appeared on the scene around 2010, swiftly gained market dominance and began scooping up foreign deals in Europe, Africa and Asia. The company’s chairman, Ye Jianming, kept a low profile, rarely granting media interviews or speaking in public. But by 2014 the company had become one of the 10 largest private firms in China; in 2017, it bought a $9 billion stake in Russian state oil giant Rosneft.
If, as Ho argues, his alleged payments weren’t about expanding business for CEFC Energy, then what were they for? Ho openly promoted China’s Belt and Road Initiative in his work at the U.N. He hailed it as “Globalization 2.0,” and his nonprofit hosted events and colloquia highlighting the Chinese policy. “We want to promote a better understanding of China, and issues pertaining to China’s position in the world, and try to make friends for China,” Ho said in a previously unpublished interview from 2015 by journalist Isaac Stone Fish, who provided a transcript to Yahoo News.
How successful Ho’s efforts were is hard to say, but the initiative he was promoting, Belt and Road, has made inroads into the United Nations headquarters in New York. Top U.N. officials have begun endorsing the Chinese-led initiative, even as senior officials in the Trump administration, including Pence, have slammed Beijing for pursuing “debt diplomacy.”
According to a spokesperson for the United Nations secretary-general, for its part, the U.N. does not condone bribery and has worked with U.S. law enforcement in the Ho case. “We made it clear when this case began that we would have no tolerance for corruption at the United Nations. We have cooperated with the US authorities in providing relevant information on this case,” Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general, wrote in response to questions from Yahoo News.
Haq also cited the Ng case, where the United Nations disclosed “thousands of documents” and waived “the immunity of officials to allow them to testify at trial.”
At the same time, however, Haq defended U.N. support for China’s Belt and Road, citing its potential to alleviate poverty. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres “believes that the Belt and Road Initiative has immense potential, promoting access to markets for countries yearning to become more integrated with the global economy,” Haq wrote. “The Initiative, he said, strives to create opportunities, global public goods and win-win cooperation.”
As for Ho, rather than denying the connection between his actions and the Chinese government, he is remarkably now making this link a cornerstone of his own defense by arguing the money he paid was a charitable donation to promote the Belt and Road initiative, not a bribe. According to court filings, Ho’s attorney submitted a letter stating the defense’s intention of calling a witness to testify that CEFC China Energy was “closely tied to the Chinese state during the period relevant to this case and participated in promoting the Chinese state’s agenda.”
Prosecutors say those ties, even if true, are irrelevant. As Ho’s case moves toward trial in New York, the Justice Department has been keeping the focus on financial charges, rather than Ho’s ties to Beijing.
Keeping the case narrowly focused on corruption may make the prosecution’s case easier, but it does have the drawback of precluding a public debate about foreign agents, according to Joshua Rosenstein, a member of Sandler Reiff law firm, which focuses on political law and advocacy.
“There is some significant value in bringing criminal charges involving unregistered foreign agents … in terms of improving or informing the public debate generally, and specifically informing the public debate about foreign actors being involved in public activities,” he said.
That is precisely the point of laws on foreign agents, he added, and prosecuting violations “can lead to sunlight being brought on surreptitious foreign activity even outside of the criminal process.”
Ultimately, whether Ho’s actions were part of Beijing-orchestrated influence campaign — and whether that matters for the charges he faces — or simply a plot to make money for his company may be left up to a jury to decide. His trial is expected to start later this month.
A Group of 22 Australian Architects have criticised the appointment of the international consultancy to manage the design shortlist that prioritises big name global architect firms to capitalise politically in the lead up to the March 2019 Election
That it is the scheme for the site of the new Powerhouse Museum that should be prioritised over that of the appointment of the Architect!
As with prior global architecture projects there is no guarantee of winning architect awards!
Architects Put NSW Government ‘On Notice’ After Powerhouse Announcement
The NSW government is moving ahead with its controversial decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, making two major appointments to steer the final design of the new Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.
On the banks of the Parramatta River on Friday, NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin announced the appointment of former Carriageworks director Lisa Havilahas chief executive, while global design competition consultancy firm Malcolm Reading was appointed to manage the design process.
Havilah replaces Dolla Merrillees, who stepped down in July after a lavish $200,000 fundraiser she approved raised just $70,000. Havilah will be the Powerhouse Museum’s fourth head in less than six years.
Friday’s announcement has attracted more scrutiny to the already controversial project, with the appointment of Malcolm Reading drawing the ire of some of Australia’s most well-known architects.
In a letter addressed to acting NSW government architect Olivia Hyde, recent national architecture award winner Angelo Candalepas led a group of 22 architects criticising the appointment of the international consultancy to manage the design shortlist.
The signatories to the letter read like a who’s who of Australian architecture, with 2018 gold medallist Alec Tzannes joining Peter Stutchbury, Rachel Neeson, Richard Francis Jones, Neil Durbach, Wendy Lewin, John Wardle and Ingrid Richards to criticise the handling of Adelaide Contemporary Architecture Competition.
The letter advises the government against pursuing a shortlist that prioritises big name global firms to use for political capital in the lead up to an election.
“[Adelaide Contemporary] was in the same term of government as New South Wales is in now,” Candalepas said.
“They have an impending election, they want a headline as they are moving into caretaker mode.
“And the headline will be used as publicity using taxpayer money.”
Danish firm 3XN’s Quay Quarter design (top left) and the firm’s Sydney fish markets (bottom right), the ‘Green Spine’ design won Dutch firm UNStudio and Cox (top right), Sunland’s Zaha Hadid-designed proposed Toowong towers.
It is the era of the “starchitect”, where developers and governments seek out big name firms to create a shortlist with a celebrity-like flavour to gain media attention.
Candalepas says the merit of the scheme should be the paramount consideration, not the architect.
“There’s no guarantee that firms can create iconic buildings every time,” Candalepas said.
“While experience should absolutely be a criterion, overarching that should be the proposition for the site – the scheme.”
Appointing a big-name celebrity architecture firm is certainly no guarantee of a sensitive, considered – or celebrated – outcome.
The Barangaroo International Towers, completed in 2016, were quietly received – winning no architecture awards.
Lendlease appointed London firm Rogers Stirk + Harbour to steer the design outcome for the landmark harbour site, with the final result receiving muted fanfare.
So too the $600 million Foster and Partners-designed Lumiere towers in Sydney – the London-based Fosters and Partners, led by Pritzker Prize-winner Norman Foster, won no major architecture awards.
That hasn’t stopped developers around the country prioritising the appointment of international firms.
Lendlease tapped Fosters and Partners again for a $545 million, 55-storey skyscraper in Circular Quay, while Zaha Hadid was sought out by Queensland developer Sunland for its embattled triple-tower Brisbane project.
Malcolm Reading says the proliferation of international firms on design shortlists is a response to a wider global outlook and a willingness to embrace a wider range of disciplines in placemaking.
“We are seeing many more collaborative teams entering and making up shortlists, bringing together skill sets and wider expertise,” Reading said.
Recent work by Reading’s firm includes competitions for the Royal College of Art, the V&A and the Illuminated River Foundation in London, the Mumbai City Museum and the Adelaide Contemporary.
Reading said that he was “delighted” to be appointed to drive the two-stage competition.
“This is a hugely relevant initiative for New South Wales, and indeed Australia.
“We will work closely with the Create NSW project team who are overseeing the development of the new Museum as well as keeping the local community informed on the competition’s progress through launch, shortlisting and the announcement of the winning team.”
Back in June 2018 when Treasurer, Scomo introduced macro-prudential policies to cool the housing market in Sydney and Melbourne by targeting the local investors with restrictions which led to him being at odds with the Master Builders Association and the Property Council!
Despite real estate prices falling due to stringent APRA regulations and the fallout from the Royal Commission properties remain out of reach for Australian First Home Buyers with loans at their lowest level!
THIS housing affordability crisis for Australians could be rectified overnight with a Government reversal of the Real Estate Sector exemption from Anti-Money Laundering Legislation!
-the construction consortia could be fully employed building for Australians!
MON 12 NOV 18
Housing Finance Hits 5-Year Low
The number of loans being issued to owner-occupiers has plunged to the lowest levels in five years, according to the latest housing finance figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The slide is due in large part to traditional banks moving abruptly away from the property market due to stringent APRA regulations and the fallout from the Royal Commission.
Loans for building and new home purchases fell 3.8 per cent over September to $29.1 billion, 13.5 per cent lower than this time last year.
First homebuyer activity also retreated following acute improvements in 2017, down by 2.0 per cent over the quarter and down by 3.7 per cent compared with a year ago.
Loans to owner-occupiers are at their lowest in value since July 2015 at $19.37 billion.
Investors are also feeling the strain with lending dipping 5.0 per cent over the quarter and is 18.2 per cent below the level recorded a year ago.
“In context of the more restrictive lending environment that homebuyers now face, it is clear that the soft lending numbers are as much to do with would-be home buyers having greater difficulty accessing finance as it is about sentiment.”
“At this juncture it will be important for the regulators to monitor the impact of their earlier interventions to ensure that policy settings remain appropriate in the new phase of the cycle.”
“The classic example is the NSW government actually asked for more people, now they say they need less,” he said.
Because obviously the NSW LNP Government were addressing the demands of developers and the real estate institute but with the election looming in March 2019 they are now concerned about a voter backlash …
IT appears to us at CAAN with Scomo’s push to get non-permanent residents out to regional areas he is allowing the foreign real estate buyers to gain permanent residency upon their purchase(s) with millions keen to launder their black money in our real estate … looks like another smokescreen pre March and May 2019 Elections … will the ALP do better than this?
-it is clear now WHY the Scomo Government exempted Real Estate Agents, Lawyers and Accountants from the Anti-Money Laundering Legislation in early October 2018
.to maintain the highly lucrative overseas market for the property sector to the detriment of aspiring Australian First Home Buyers!
It’s been amazing watching Scott Morrison’s speedy transformation from mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ defender to a sceptic on the verge of slashing the permanent migrant intake.
As recently as four months ago, Scott Morrison lambasted Tony Abbott’s push to cut the migrant intake to 110,000, warning it risked Australia’s future economic prosperity and would “cut off your nose to spite your face”.
Morrison had also frequently claimed that cutting immigration would cost the federal budget billions in foregone revenue, completely ignoring the horrendous costs incurred by the states.
Then Scott Morrison pivoted to lying about the migrant intake, claiming that it was temporary migrants causing the population pressures, not the permanent migrant intake – an argument that was thoroughly debunked by MB again, and again and again.
Next came Scott Morrison’s ‘migrants to the bush’ smokescreen – a policy that was comprehensively debunked by Morrison himself when the former Gillard Labor Government proposed a similar policy in 2010-11, along with numerous other commentators.
Yesterday, we witnessed another leg in Scott Morrison’s capitulation over immigration, spruiking plans to let the states determine Australia’s migrant intake by submitting to the federal government their annual migration needs:
Because the states plan roads, hospitals and schools, they need to say where they want population growth.
“This is a blinding piece of common sense, which is: how about states who plan for population growth and the Commonwealth government who sets the migration levels, actually bring this together?” Mr Morrison told Sky News on Monday…
Instead, the prime minister wants to see states work closely with Canberra on where migrants should go, and where expansion should happen.
“They are in the best position to actually make a judgment about what the carrying capacity is in their state and territory,” he said.
“We’ll set what the cap is, we’ll let it be demand-driven, but it has to be based on what the carrying capacity is at state and territory level.”
Mr Morrison said the push to get migrants out to regional areas could be done with conditions on non-permanent visas.
“If you want permanent residency in this country and you’re on a non-permanent visa, and you haven’t been compliant with the terms of your non-permanent visa, you don’t get a permanent residency visa and you go home,” he said.
MB always said that the immigration debate would be won in Sydney, given this is where the pressures are most acute and where the political backlash has been strongest.
Clearly, Scott Morrison’s latest plan is a direct response to the NSW State Government and Opposition’s call for immigration into Sydney to be slashed.
Some MB readers have already dismissed Scott Morrison’s latest plan as all talk and another policy smokescreen. However, I believe it runs deeper than this.
The Coalition can no longer deny that mass immigration has turned toxic in the crush-loaded big cities, and needs a narrative that allows it to cut immigration without looking contradictory, desperate and poll driven.
By letting the states ‘bid down’ the migrant intake, Scott Morrison has that narrative, which is an easy sell to the publicand difficult for Labor to attack.
It would also make it difficult for Labor to justify raising the migrant intake back up in the future.
Letting the states effectively set the immigration cap via the bottom-up is also a profound policy improvement over the current top-down approach. It would help eliminate the vertical fiscal imbalance dogging immigration policy, whereby the federal government receives the lion’s share of the benefits from mass immigration via increased personal and company tax receipts, whereas the states are left carrying the economic and social infrastructure costs.
While the devil is always in the detail, fully implemented this policy would very likely see Australia’s overall migrant intake substantially reduced with far less permanent migrants flowing to NSW (Sydney) and VIC (Melbourne), only partly offset by more going to other jurisdictions.
For mine, this latest announcement is the strongest indication we have seen that the Coalition will cut immigration in the lead-up to the election.
While we are unsure if Labor will back the move, it does suggest a paradigm shift may be finally taking place in the immigration debate.
A meaningful reduction in Australia’s immigration intake is looking increasingly likely:
CORELOGIC has released a new report which brings to light that despite dwelling values in Sydney declining by 8.4% there is no region within Greater Sydney where the median dwelling value is below $600,000!
TIME the Scomo Government reversed its very pooor policies!
-reverse the exemption for the Real Estate Sector on the Anti-Money Laundering Legislation
THAT would pretty much solve this overnight eliminating the onshore Proxy!
-stop the developer STING of the 100% sell-off overseas of Australian Real Estate
BUILD HOUSING FOR AUSTRALIAN FAMILIES! THIS IS LOOMING AS A VERY BIG ELECTION ISSUE …
Despite falls, no regions in Sydney are priced under $600k