House debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

Private Members' Business

Foreign Owned Data Centres

1:01 pm

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Clark, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

I haven't changed my view in the last five minutes. I'm still firmly of the view that you can't make this stuff up. The facts of the matter are really quite simple, and those are that the company Global Switch stores defence data, Global Switch is Chinese controlled and Global Switch have the contract until 2025. They are the facts of the matter, and they are alarming on so many levels.

The obvious level is security. Surely, in 2021, we should be acutely aware that information is every bit as valuable to this country as land and infrastructure. It's the beachhead of World War II. It is vitally important that we do everything in our power to protect it. There's also the issue of our sovereignty. We're almost abandoning our sovereignty by allowing a Chinese-controlled company to store our defence data. Surely we should be asserting our sovereignty and showing the world, particularly countries like China, that we will always assert our sovereignty and we will always do everything in our power to protect it.

There's also the issue of the government honouring its promises. Four years ago, the now Prime Minister, then Treasurer, said that this matter would be remedied. He made a promise. It's a promise that has not been delivered on. That should concern us all. There are also the perils of us trying to do national security on the cheap. I'm the first to say that we shouldn't waste money on defence and that we should spend that money that might be saved elsewhere, but that doesn't mean we do anything to compromise our national security, and certainly not national security on the cheap. When I was in the Army, we had an old joke: 'You'd better watch out; your rifle was made by the lowest bidder.' I think we've got a case of that here. We look for any company from anywhere in the world and controlled by anywhere in the world, so long as it's cheap. And you can't do defence on the cheap.

There's the issue of supporting Australian businesses. Now more than ever, government should be doing everything they can to promote Australian businesses and support Australian businesses. Now more than ever, when we're acutely aware of the importance of self-sufficiency, this is exactly the time that we should be fast-tracking changing this contract, getting our data away from a foreign-controlled company, giving it to an Australian company, promoting Australian jobs, promoting profits in Australia and helping shareholders in this country. That's what we should be doing.

This is not about any one country. I know my honourable colleagues have spoken about China, and it's understandable that we're very focused on China at the moment. But we should be having this conversation about any country other than Australia that is being given excessive influence in this country. For heaven's sake, that dreadful COVIDSafe app is a complete waste of money and a complete dud. I never downloaded it, and I said I wouldn't download it at the time. The data from that, for what it's worth, is stored by Amazon, an American-controlled company. So I'm not seeking favourites here or picking on any one country; I'm saying that, when it comes to government data—particularly sensitive data and particularly defence data—it must not be stored by any foreign-controlled company.

Let's wrap a bit of context around this. It ain't like this is the first thing that's come along that should worry us. The member for Dawson has spoken about the Port of Darwin. You only have to go to the Port of Darwin website to see that it says that it's a defence port, yet it's leased by a foreign-controlled company for the next 99 years. What about all the broadacre prime agricultural land that we have allowed to be sold off to foreign-controlled companies? What about the natural gas distribution network on the mainland, which is owned by a foreign-controlled company? It is just not good enough.

I do acknowledge that the Treasurer, on account of the coronavirus pandemic, has cracked down on the security vetting of foreign investors. But pandemics come and pandemics go, and I am worried that we will go back to the old ways. The Treasurer, the Prime Minister, the government and the next government must ensure that in future all foreign acquisitions are carefully scrutinised from a security point of view. And, if there is even a whiff of threat to our national security—including our economic security when it comes to investing in agricultural land and other assets like the Van Diemen's Land Company, Australia's biggest dairy-producing company—and our military security, the government must say no. That is what the community expects the government to do. That is what we need to do in the future—and they can start by getting this contract off this company storing our defence data.


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