'Just say it': MP's car crash interview
Liberal MP Gladys Liu is facing renewed questions about her links to China this morning after struggling through an absolute trainwreck of an interview last night.
Ms Liu was interviewed - or perhaps skewered would be a better word - by Sky News host Andrew Bolt, who asked why her name appeared on documents from a body connected to the Chinese Communist Party.
Let's run through the transcript. The whole thing was pretty extraordinary, so settle in for a long read.
First, Ms Liu claimed she could not recall whether she was on the committee of an association.
Bolt: "Were you on the committee of two chapters of the China Overseas Guangdong Exchange Association, one in Guangdong from 2003-2015 and the other in Shandong?"
Liu: "Well, good to be with you Andrew. I can tell you that I cannot recall, if as is reported that from 2003-2015, 12 years long, that if I can't recall, I can't be an active member of that council, can I?"
Bolt: "How can you not recall a membership of 12 years? I mean we have just shown your name listed there. I've got another document I can show you, of your name listed in the other association. That is two associations, associations lasting 12 years, and you can't recall it?"
Liu: "Well I can tell you that I have never been a member of the council and yeah, it can happen. They can put your name there without your knowledge."
Bolt then pointed out that the association in question fell under the umbrella of a Chinese propaganda outfit. Ms Liu claimed to be ignorant of that fact.
Bolt: "This association, which you say you can't remember being part of for 12 years, is under the arm of China's United Front Work Department which President Xi Xinping has called one of the Chinese Communist Party's three magic weapons. In what way do you understand the United Front to be a weapon?"
Liu: "Well I will leave this to Professor Hamilton or other experts, but to me …"
Bolt: "No, no, no, no. I was quoting the Chinese President Xi Xinping, not Clive Hamilton. He said it was a magic weapon."
Liu: "Well as I said, I don't know this organisation, these two organisations, and when I looked at them, the position of the other organisation that I was a member or, in fact a secretary for, it was the Chinese Professional Business Association. I did mention the organisation in my inaugural speech and I was proudly the secretary for years of that organisation. However I have no knowledge that that organisation was part of whatever influential China body. If it was, it was definitely not during my time."
Bolt: "You have never heard of the United Front Work Department? China's biggest propaganda outfit, very active in Australia? Never heard of it?"
Liu: "I have. I have. I have. But it was, like you, through the media. I have no firsthand knowledge."
Moving on, Bolt pressed Ms Liu for her opinion on China's actions in the South China Sea. She repeatedly refused to criticise China.
Bolt: "The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague has said that China taking over the South China Sea was unlawful. Do you agree that it was unlawful?"
Liu: "This is a matter for the Foreign Minister. I definitely put - I would put Australia's interests first, and that is exactly what I have been doing. I look after my electorate of Chisolm and I work with the government to put interests of Australians first."
Bolt: "Well the government's position is, of course, that the theft was unlawful. It is challenging China's theft of the sea. Do you support the government's position that China stealing the South China Sea is unlawful?"
Liu: "My understanding is a lot of countries are trying to claim ownership, sovereignty of the South China Sea because of various reasons, and my position is with the Australian government."
Bolt: "Can I just hear you say it, that you support the Australian government's position that the theft of the South China Sea by China is unlawful? Is it unlawful, yes or no?"
Liu: "Well as I said, I want to make sure that Australians' interests were put first and foremost and if it's going to affect our trade or our air travelling, then that is something that I would not support."
Bolt: "Well in fact, it does affect our trade. Sixty per cent of it goes through that sea. We have been warned by China to stay away. We are thinking of challenging that with our navy, and you are here not able to actually support the government's position that it was unlawful. Is there some problem with you agreeing that it was unlawful? It has been held so under international law. Why are you not going along with that?"
Liu: "I never said that I'm not going along with it. What I'm saying is I always put Australia's interests first. After all, I am a member of the parliament for the Australian government and so of course I will put Australia's interests first and whatever - as I said in my maiden speech too, I will always want to have a good relationship between Australia and China and I will put Australia's interests first."
Bolt: "Well, Australia's interests with China is to have the South China Sea not stolen by China. Everyone listening can hear that you are reluctant to go along with that fairly clear proposition which is, in fact, your party's position too."
Next, Bolt brought up an event Ms Liu had attended at Crown Casino last year. The meeting included some groups with links to the Chinese Communist Party. While there, Ms Liu said a resolution should be sent to federal MPs calling on the Australian government to be friendlier to China.
During her interview with Bolt, Ms Liu did not dispute those facts.
Bolt: "Can you now tell us in what way should Australia be more friendly to China? Can you give some examples?"
Liu: "Well, that is what our Foreign Minister has been doing very well. And she has been looking at the relationship between all countries and she has been talking on the interests, for the interests of Australia with other foreign ministers."
Bolt: "But this was a resolution only last year. In what way has the government been friendlier to China than it was last year? Last year your resolution, you were part of, said the media was too hostile and the government should be friendlier. In what way should it be friendlier than it was last year?"
Liu: "No I think that's a bit of a misunderstanding. I was in the room when the 40 organisations met. I wasn't participating. I didn't speak and I just be there to make sure that I know what they are doing and what they are thinking."
Bolt: "You say you didn't speak, but I just quoted you. You just agreed that yes, you did tell the meeting something."
Liu: "Yes, when I was invited to say something, and I say yes, if you want to let your member of parliament know your position, do that. That's what I always encourage people to do."
Bolt ended the interview by prodding Ms Liu to criticise Xi Jinping. Again, she would not.
Bolt: "Xi Jinping has made himself dictator for life. He is cracking down on dissidents, human rights activists. He has imprisoned Christians, he has imprisoned Uighurs in re-education camps, he is threatening Taiwan. Do you consider Xi Jinping a dictator?"
Liu: "Well honestly, I have been focusing on serving the seat of Chisolm and that's exactly what I have done since the election. I only had one day off in the last 3.5 months. I don't really …"
Bolt: "Gladys, Gladys, excuse me. You were born in Hong Kong. At the moment, you have seen in your home place people in their millions at times, 1.7 million, in their millions, protesting against what China is doing there and you don't have any opinion on Xi Jinping?"
Liu: "OK, so if you want to talk about China, let me just tell you one thing. I was born in Hong Kong and I never stepped into China before I came to Australia. I had the Hong Kong ID card. I never held a Chinese passport. I had the Hong Kong travelling document and then I've got the Australian passport. In terms of Hong Kong, it is very, very sad for anyone to see what has happened."
Bolt: "But Gladys, a simple question. Is Xi Jinping a dictator?"
Liu: "That is not a question for me to answer, but I can tell you about Hong Kong. It is very …"
Bolt: "I don't want to know about Hong Kong. I am asking you about Xi Jinping, the dictator of communist China, and you don't have an opinion about him."
Liu: "I do have an opinion, but I'm not going to use the word dictator. He is in their system an elected chairman or president, they call it, for China."
Bolt: "Gladys Liu, are you in effect a spokesman for the Chinese Communist regime in Australia?"
Liu: "The simple answer is no."
Well, there you go. You're up to speed.
We will get into the reaction to Ms Liu's comments throughout the morning, and we understand she will make a statement on the subject at some point today.