It is rare that such an open and shut case has been presented to the Australian people for judgment. There cannot be a shred of doubt: Helen Liu is … um, something. You know. Like, a bit, sort of … you know what we mean.

According to The Australian’s headline, Liu “…has strong links with Chinese army”. However, when eager readers examine the relevant article to see this clinching proof that our Defence Minister has been “showered with gifts” by a PLA officer, they only discover she’s on the editorial committee of “Shandong Celebrities Family”, which “has extensive membership within China’s military, the Peoples’ Liberation Army”.

But wait, there’s more compelling evidence. “Of the past 10 cover photos, three have featured senior army officers”. An ex-PLA officer did some calligraphy for them.

And the clincher? Ms Liu — or Madame Liu, as News Ltd publications inexplicably call her — is from Shandong, and “Shandong is famous as a source of senior soldiers in China.”

Lucky she’s not from Szechuan, famous for its duck. Even The Australian in its wildest deluded dreams, surely cannot be serving this rubbish up with a straight face.

Oh, and last time we checked, News Ltd’s owner was himself married to a Chinese-born businesswoman. Married! Chinese! Woman!

ASIO took the unprecedented step of issuing a statement saying it had no concerns about Ms Liu. Or, presumably, with her connections with John Howard, with whom she has been photographed.

What’s the exact charge here? What’s the problem? Where is this all leading? And what is the Opposition trying to suggest with its constant reiteration of loose factoids connecting the Rudd Government with China?

Instead of devoting time and effort to working out who did calligraphy for “Shandong Celebrities Family”, here are some real issues journalists could pursue:

  • what the febrile Sinophobic atmosphere being whipped up in Australia means for future Chinese investment
  • how Kevin Rudd can best argue the Anglo-American-Asia-Pacific case for sensible reform to global finance
  • how Australia’s defence interests are served if a handful of rogue Defence officials can slander the Minister trying to reform that Department.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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