Malcolm Turnbull Just Threw Peter Dutton Under The Bus
Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison have "questions to answer" over an explosive report that a Chinese billionaire paid thousands of dollars for access to the immigration minister, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said.
Turnbull, who was rolled as PM in August 2018 and replaced by Morrison following a Liberal leadership spill, waded into the latest scandal surrounding Home Affairs Minister Dutton on Tuesday, calling it "very concerning".
But Morrison has batted the claims away, saying he is "very satisfied" with the dealings of his minister in this case.
"I have no concerns," he said.
"I am very satisfied. We have meetings with people all the time. The suggestion here is that something inappropriate was done. There is no basis for that whatsoever. Absolutely none."
Turnbull's latest extraordinary intervention into federal politics came in response to a Four Corners and Sydney Morning Herald report, which alleged that Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo paid thousands of dollars to lobbyist Santo Santoro -- a former Howard government minister -- in 2016 as he tried to secure Australian citizenship.
The report -- aired on the ABC on Monday and published in the newspapers on Tuesday -- alleged that Huang met Dutton at a Sydney restaurant for lunch. His citizenship bid was later rejected after ASIO objected to his links to the Chinese Communist Party.
Huang had a prior controversial entry into Australian politics. Labor senator Sam Dastyari was forced to resign from parliament after accepting donations from Huang to cover bills, and speaking alongside the billionaire at a press conference where he contradicted the ALP's policy on the South China Sea.
It has been reported that, in January 2015, Huang's family was allowed to have a private citizenship ceremony inside Dastyari's former senatorial office, after Dutton approved the request.
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Labor has described the incident as a "cash for access" scandal and demanded Dutton immediately explain "all the murky details".
Dutton has denied any wrongdoing, saying he "never received a dollar from this individual" and calling claims that he assisted Huang "nonsense". Morrison has defended his government's record as "squeaky clean."
But Turnbull, who was PM at the time of the reported meeting, has come out firing, saying both Dutton and Morrison have questions to answer.
"Peter Dutton has got a lot to explain about this. He is supposed to be the minister responsible for the domestic security of Australia. He is supposed to be the minister responsible for ensuring our politics is not influenced by foreign actors," he said in Sydney on Tuesday.
"The idea that the minister responsible for enforcing those laws has had a meeting of this kind does raise a lot of questions, but Peter Dutton is the only one that can answer them and Mr Santoro should equally be answering questions about his role."
"I think it is very, very concerning and very troubling for anyone, I'd say that's every Australian who is concerned about ensuring that our politics is not influenced by foreign actors, and that our politics and political decisions and access is not available to be hawked around in the way that it is alleged it was."
Dutton stood against Turnbull in the leadership spill, but was ultimately beaten by former treasurer Morrison in the August partyroom vote. Turnbull's intervention into the Huang embroglio, appearing to point the focus squarely at his former colleagues, has only served to intensify the building controversy.
Turnbull claimed he knew nothing of the meeting between Dutton and Huang when he was PM, saying the first he had heard of it was through media reporting.
"Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister and you can't wave this off and say that it's all part of gossip and the bubble. This is the national security of Australia. Remember the furore that arose against Senator Dastyari," he said.
"This has to be addressed at the highest level of security, priority, urgency by the Prime Minister. The buck stops with him. I know what it is like to be Prime Minister and ultimately, you're responsible and so Scott Morrison has to deal with this Peter Dutton issue."
Labor argues the incident strikes at the integrity of Australia's immigration system and Dutton's performance as a minister.
"This is a cash for access scandal and Mr Dutton needs to come clean on all of his dealings with Santo Santoro," shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said.
"Mr Dutton and his office should immediately release all documents, emails and correspondence between himself and Santo Santoro, including any material concerning the Huang family's citizenship applications."