Monday, 22 February 2021
Private Members' Business
Foreign Owned Data Centres
I rise as a government backbencher to support items (1), (2), and (4) out of the member for Kennedy's motion. I too am concerned about Global Switch and its parent company, and the issue that this poses to our national security.
Firstly, can I say that, while a lot of brickbats have been thrown in this place against News Corp, my congratulations, actually, go to Charles Miranda and News Corp for running this story, because this is important information that needs to see the light of day. With that out of the way, the good news, which the member for Kennedy will hopefully acknowledge, is that the Prime Minister has given an assurance that Defence's secure data remains safe. He has cited a statement issued by the Secretary of Defence that 'Defence has comprehensive security controls in place to protect against compromise by a foreign power or other malicious actor', and that 'Defence has migrated its most sensitive data to a purpose-built data centre'. I'll say that again: Defence has migrated its most sensitive data to a purpose-built data centre. They went on today, 'Defence is now progressing work consistent with the strategy to migrate less sensitive and unclassified data assets to an alternate data centre.'
Nevertheless, there is a concern that any defence data may still be in the hands of Global Switch, and that was a concern recognised by this government and also the Department of Defence a few years ago, when Global Switch transferred from being a parent company that was based in the UK to come under the ownership of a Chinese consortium. That Chinese consortium is called Elegant Jubilee. It is made up of mainly two outfits, the Jiangsu Shagang Group, which is indeed a private firm that's basically run by a fellow called Shen Wenrong. Shen Wenrong has been a deputy for the congress of the Chinese Communist Party. It is without doubt that this company, Jiangsu Shagang, is in bed with the CCP. More than that, one of the subsidiaries or the owners of Elegant Jubilee is an outfit called AVIC Trust. AVIC Trust is partly a state owned Chinese corporation—that is, partly owned by the CCP.
This is something that we can't tolerate in this country. We can't tolerate it. I've got to say I've been incredibly concerned about what seems to me—and I could be wrong; I'm happy to be corrected by defence officials—to be this blase attitude towards Chinese companies, particularly state owned corporations and companies with very sensitive links to the Chinese Communist party and the Chinese military, by defence officials. Others in the national security apparatus seem to get it. I've been concerned about this since the port of Darwin was ticked off by the Department of Defence, to go to a company, Landbridge, that had sensitive links, key links, with the People's Liberation Army of China.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute released a paper in the last week. In that paper, they say this:
Beijing's strategy of using commercial investments in critical infrastructure to support its military expansionism is most evident in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
… China's state-owned enterprises (SOEs) play a key role in implementing the BRI. Ostensibly commercial operations, they operate in a hybrid style, fulfilling CCP objectives and in return receiving strong government support … Each Chinese SOE is required to have a CCP committee and numerous subordinate party branches, ensuring that commercial strategies are aligned with party directives.
Chinese SOEs designated 'important backbone state-owned enterprises' are uniquely beholden to the CCP.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has said to this government, my government:
Australia should build its research and analytical capacity to better understand the nexus between the CCP and SOEs.
Very much we should—because the port of Darwin affair, with a company with strategic links to the Chinese military and, in this case, a company that has, if you look down the food chain, links with the CCP, is very, very problematic. We need to have it fixed, and this needs to be done across the board, in all areas of Australian government. (Time expired)