Premier Mark McGowan says there was no need for Labor MP Pierre Yang to declare links to two Perth groups that actively promote the Chinese Government and its ruling Communist Party because the rules allow MPs to use their discretion.
Mr Yang has been forced to resign from the two associations after claiming he overlooked his membership when making “interests and positions” disclosures to Parliament.
Mr McGowan defended Mr Yang yesterday, arguing there was no legal requirement for him to include the groups when filing his annual returns.
“It’s discretionary on your disclosures what memberships you put on there,” he said. “You’ll find very few members of Parliament put any disclosures of organisations we are members of because generally we’re members of scores of them.”
But on Tuesday, Mr Yang accepted that he should have declared his membership of the North-East China Federation and Association of Great China and did so once he realised his “oversight”.
He also said he did not know the significance of an agreement being signed at an NECF function he attended in 2016, which resulted in the group becoming affiliated with a hardline department of the Communist Party’s central committee.
“I did not pay it much attention as it did not involve me,” Mr Yang said.
The Opposition wants Mr Yang, who is also an Australian Army Reserve captain, to make a full statement to Parliament about his association with the groups and questioned how the Upper House MP for South Metropolitan could have forgotten to mention them.
“All incoming members of Parliament are briefed by the clerks about their disclosure responsibilities,” shadow government accountability minister Tjorn Sibma said.
“Mr Yang is an intelligent man and would have clearly understood his obligation to disclose his memberships.”
Under his Chinese name, Mr Yang was also listed on a website as being a member of a pro-China reunification group, but the MP has denied any link to that organisation and asked for his name to be removed.
Mr McGowan described the revelations about Mr Yang’s undeclared associations as an “attack filled with slur and innuendo” and that it was “pretty poor form”.
“It’s a bit of dog whistling by some people,” he said.
“He’s been accused of being a member of an organisation he wasn’t required to declare. Half the time you can’t remember which ones you’re a member of.”
Mr McGowan said China was Australia’s main trading partner and it was not unusual for a Chinese-born Australian to be involved in his ethnic community’s associations.