There’s something peculiar going on in The Age’s coverage of ministerial propriety and it seems linked to a reflexive suspicion of Asians.

Today there is an extended article about the fact that a Taiwanese businessman paid for travel by Kevin Rudd in 2005. In June, there was an Age article during the faked email affair under the lurid headline “Rudd in new mates lobbying storm” about whether he had, while visiting China, made representations on behalf of a company owned by John Grant. That was a day after The Age had revealed Grant had helped raise funds for a legal bill incurred by Rudd’s action group against an extension of Brisbane Airport.

The two journalists, Richard Baker and Philip Dorling, had previously “revealed” Joel Fitzgibbon’s relationship with Chinese-Australian businesswoman Helen Liu, about whom no one has been able to identify a single concern beyond those of self-appointed ministerial scrutineers in Defence. That coverage included the shock revelation that Fitzgibbon had travelled to China in 1993 before he even was an MP, which the journalists primly admitted “he was not obliged to declare”.

These issues are all fair game for journalists. Crikey extensively explored Kevin Rudd’s travel at the expense of Beijing Austchina last year, and the more recently we discussed the enthusiasm of the Taiwanese Government to fund trips by MPs.

But a characteristic of all these stories is to make some connection with another figure of supposedly dubious propriety and suggest, somehow, that there is something inappropriate about a politician being indirectly linked to such a person. Today it is Taiwan’s “disgraced former president”. In June it was colourful Brisbane identity George Cheihk. In the Fitzgibbon case it was Helen Liu’s supposed links with the Chinese military. In no case was there any substantial issue established. In no case were the issues that lie at the heart of these business-political links — the heavy reliance of our political system on donations — explored.

The Age makes much of political donations by Taiwanese business people to the ALP. It was the Rudd Government that tried to ban foreign political donations. That bill remains stymied by the Opposition in the Senate — a situation The Age has not thought fit to explore in any detail. The Age should move beyond cheap headlines and suggestions of sinister connection to Asians.