As he begins a state visit to the United States, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison leaves a tricky political situation back home.
Americans are about to see a lot of Morrison. After a state dinner at the White House, he’ll make what’s being billed as a major speech in Chicago and then attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Morrison is sure to keep a close eye on politics back home.
While Morrison lead his conservative coalition to an upset victory in elections last spring, his government has the narrowest of majorities in Parliament …one single vote.
Over the past two weeks, reports from Australia’s ABC and The Herald Sun Newspaper have exposed links between the Chinese Communist Party and Liberal MP Gladys Liu. She is the first Chinese-Australian elected to Parliament, but after being hailed for breaking through what some call the “Bamboo Ceiling,” she finds herself at the center of the deepening controversy over the extent of Chinese influence in Australia.
She has not helped her own case. In an uncomfortable interview on Sky News Australia, Liu said she couldn’t remember whether she’d been a member of organizations tied to the Chinese Communist Party and gave uncertain answers on the legality of Chinese policy in the South China Sea. Since then, she’s not spoken, to the media or to Parliament.
When members of the opposition Labour Party raised questions about her fitness for office, Prime Minister Morrison thundered to her defense. “It’s a ridiculous suggestion,” he said, “and I think an insult to every single Chinese Australian in this country.”
Morrison also raised the case of Sam Dastyari, a Labour senator who resigned in disgrace over his ties to China, but then Morrison left himself open to charges of hypocrisy when he repeatedly referred to Dastyari as “Shanghai Sam.”