SUBJECTS: Liberal Party donations.

KIM LANDERS: Labor is questioning whether a Sydney education group, with links to the Chinese Government, received preferential treatment after donating to the Liberal Party. 

TOP Education Institute is also a donor to the ALP - and has been in the spotlight after paying a travel bill for the New South Wales Labor Senator, Sam Dastyari.

Now Labor Senator Kim Carr says he's surprised the group was given access to the Government's streamlined visa program, when Labor had been given departmental advice against it when it was in office.

From Canberra, Peta Donald reports.

PETA DONALD: When Kim Carr was Higher Education Minister and Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister in 2013, they were lobbied by an ALP donor Dr Minshen Zhu from the TOP Education Institute closely linked to the Chinese Government.

Dr Zhu was keen to improve the institute’s poor immigration risk rating awarded by the Immigration Department.  He also wanted providers like his to be part of the streamlined visa processing system which at the time was only allowed for universities.

SENATOR KIM CARR:   I was concerned about the proposal and despite the fact that they had been significant contributors to the Labor Party; the case on my judgement was not able to be sustained by the advice of the Department.

DONALD: So what did you say? Did you just say no?

CARR: No. What we said to them was that we want to consider their case. I investigated their case and it wasn’t able to be stacked up given the circumstances. The Department of Immigration was advising me, and the Department of Education was advising me that there was a very, very high level of risk associated with the proposal.

DONALD: As well as donating to Labor, TOP Education has given tens of thousands of dollars to the Liberal Party. In the lead-up to the 2013 election, the Coalition promised to give private colleges like TOP access to streamlined visas, which, along with around 20 others, they went on to get.

CARR: I was very surprised, given the emphasis that the Liberal Party placed on border protection. It was remarkable that there was such a significant change in policy towards giving access to students from China and other places as part of this scheme.

It proves to me that there are some really serious questions to be asked here, given the way that the Liberals have been going about associations with companies linked to foreign governments. How has this policy change occurred?

DONALD: The former Higher Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, has angrily denied a link between the donations to the Liberal Party and the Coalition’s change of policy. He was questioned on Channel Nine.

PYNE: The only reason they would have been given streamlined visa processing is they, along with 20 or so other education businesses in Australia, met the requirements that the public service decided were required to allow them to have streamlined visa processing – nothing to do with the Liberal Party, or the Labor Party for that matter, or the Government. So trying to link the two is completely wrong.

DONALD: That was Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, ending Peter Donald’s report. TOP Education Institute was approached but declined to make any comment.


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