MALCOLM Turnbull is “very, very concerned” about Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s meeting with a Chinese billionaire now banned from re-entering Australia.
Huang Xiangmo paid tens of thousands of dollars to a lobbyist in 2016 to secure a private lunch with Mr Dutton when he was immigration minister, in an attempt to fast track his citizenship application, it’s been claimed.
The now-Home Affairs Minister said he agreed to the meeting because Mr Huang was a significant leader in the Australian Chinese community.
“I’ve never received a dollar from this individual. I had that one meeting with him over lunch. I haven’t seen him since. What’s he got from me? Well, he’s now offshore,” Mr Dutton told reporters in Rockhampton on Tuesday.
But former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said Mr Dutton and lobbyist Santo Santoro – a former Liberal government minister – have a lot to explain about the “very troubling” revelations.
“Remember the furore that arose about Sam Dastyari? All the same, issues have arisen again,” Mr Turnbull told reporters.
“I think it is very, very concerning and very troubling for anyone.
“This has to be addressed at the highest level of security, priority, urgency by the prime minister. The buck stops with him.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr Huang had been banned from Australia and Labor senator Sam Dastyari forced to resign in disgrace after he tipped Mr Huang off about an investigation into him.
“The individual you’re referring to has actually been prevented from ever returning back to Australia,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Gosford.
“I think when it comes to these issues our government’s record is squeaky clean.”
Mr Dastyari tweeted a link to a news story about the meeting and said: “I resigned for less.”
I resigned for less. https://t.co/qE6X5HPl3T
— Sam Dastyari (@samdastyari) April 8, 2019
Mr Huang paid money to Mr Santoro in 2016 while mounting a campaign to secure Australian citizenship.
He then met with Mr Dutton at a Chinese restaurant in Sydney, according to an investigation by the ABC’s Four Corners.
The minister has denied his citizenship bid was discussed at the meeting.
Labor argues the incident strikes at the integrity of Australia’s immigration system and Mr 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.”
In January 2015, Mr Huang’s family was allowed to have a private citizenship ceremony inside Mr Dastyari’s former senatorial office, after Mr Dutton approved the request.