Port of Darwin deal review essential and long overdue
Today’s announcement of a review into the Port of Darwin is an overdue and vital step in maintaining the integrity of Australia’s critical infrastructure and protection from possible foreign interference.
The decision to lease the Port of Darwin to Landbridge Industry Australia, a subsidiary of Shandong Landbridge Group, a Chinese company whose billionaire owner was named by the Chinese Government in 2013 as one of the top 10 ‘individuals caring about the development of national defence’ and the company was later found to have extensive links to the CCP and the People’s Liberation Army, was a serious mistake that must be rectified.
In 2015, the Department of Defence “examined the possible security implications” of the lease of the port but did not have any concerns. Former Secretary of the Department of Defence, Dennis Richardson, said at Senate Estimates hearings on 21 October 2015 that “no part of defence had a concern from a security perspective in the respect of the sale.”
Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, Chair of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Committee, said the review was vital and overdue and questioned how the Department of Defence allowed the deal.
“It is unfathomable why the port was leased to a company whose billionaire owner was named by the Chinese Government in 2013 as one of the top 10 ‘individuals caring about the development of national defence’ and the company was later found to have extensive links to the CCP and the People’s Liberation Army.”
“The CCP would never let a foreign nation interfere with their ‘internal affairs’ with the purchase of such a piece of infrastructure that is so militarily, economically, and strategically important to the nation, yet DFAT inexplicably thought this was in the nation’s interest.”
“From the Greek Port of Piraeus, sold to the Chinese state-owned enterprise COSCO for a 51 per cent stake, Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka, ceded to the Chinese Government – along with 15,000 acres of surrounding land – for 99 years, or the Port of Doraleh in Djibouti, which is now buttressed by China’s first overseas military base, China has a consistent record of buying ports in vital shipping areas and using their economic leverage to extract military and strategic advantages.”
“Australia faces unprecedented levels of foreign interference aimed at undermining our political system, critical infrastructure and social institutions. Given the new powers of the Federal Government under the Foreign Relations Bill, it is a timely and appropriate decision from Minister Dutton to consider all investments and the purchase of critical assets by foreign nations that have the potential to subvert our national interests and security.”