04 Dec ‘Sad end to his career’: Liberal Senator blasts Nick Xenophon’s Huawei evasion
Latika Bourke – The Age – Wednesday 4 December
Former senator Nick Xenophon’s claims that his legal work for Chinese telecommunications exempt him from registering on the foreign influence register are wrong, Liberal senator James Paterson has said.
In a blistering speech delivered in the Senate under parliamentary privilege late on Tuesday, Senator Paterson said Mr Xenophon risked a “sad end” to his career of public service by taking on Huawei’s cause in Australia, where both the Liberal and Labor parties have banned the Chinese company from the 5G and national broadband rollouts on advice from the security agencies.
Mr Xenophon told the ABC that he was not required to register as he would not be lobbying MPs to make Huawei’s case.
“I have had enough of politicians and they have probably had enough of me,” Mr Xenophon said. “There are others within Huawei that do a very good [job talking] to members of Parliament and ministers.”
Senator Paterson said Mr Xenophon did need to comply with the law as contact with elected representatives was not the only criteria for the scheme.
“Another is ‘communications activities for the purpose of political or governmental influence,’ he said.
“It is hard to imagine what purpose Mr Xenophon has been engaged by Huawei for, if it is not to achieve their publicly stated goal of changing government policy towards their company.”
Further, Senator Paterson said it was disturbing that Mr Xenophon who fashioned himself as “a crusader for good ethics and good governance” planned to pursue public critics of the Chinese firm under Australia’s defamation laws.
“This is despite the fact that in the Senate he called for reform of defamation laws and warned about the impact they were having on public interest journalism,” Senator Paterson told the Senate.
Senator Paterson said while companies were entitled to representation and former MPs allowed to make an income, “both must do so within the law”.
“And if politicians conduct themselves in their post-parliamentary careers in a way that blatantly contradicts the things they stood for while in this place, then they will rightly be judged harshly for it,” he said.
“Reputations are hard won, but easily lost. If Mr Xenophon wants to throw his away representing a company so widely condemned, then that is a sad end to a career of public service.”
In 2017, Mr Xeonophon criticised DFAT and Defence for buying Huwaei phones as “bizarre”. He also proposed a five-year ban on retired ministers doing any lobbying when former Labor senator Stephen Conroy went to work for the Responsible Wagering Council. Mr Xenophon described Mr Conroy’s new job at the time as a “cheap insurance policy”.
Mr Xenophon also demanded former MPs lobbying for companies after retirement should disclose their income, but refused to say how much he was being paid by Huawei when asked the same question.
Mr Xenophon said in response that he fully agreed with Senator Paterson that “in a democracy companies are fully entitled to representation.”
“In this case Xenophon Davis is representing a company that has been ferociously and unfairly attacked,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Mr Xenophon said as lawyers “we act entirely within the law” and said lawyers were “properly exempt”.
“Respectfully it is wrong to say we are required to be on a register for the work we are doing,” he said.
“Huawei Australia is not a foreign entity under the relevant legislation.
“In any event our engagement is hardly secret given our public statements.”
Mr Xenophon said he was proud of his record in the Senate.
“And as a lawyer I’m proud to represent people and companies who have been unfairly attacked by those in power.”