Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate, representing the Prime Minister. Last week, The Australian newspaper reported that anti-communist Chinese students at the University of Adelaide were identified and reported to the Chinese embassy. Chinese business interests have been linked to claims of spying and security flaws in a variety of technology and communications products designed to assist the Chinese government. It is a matter of public record that there is also myriad attacks emanating from China against our government and departmental computer systems. Given the repeated warnings from our allies about the impact of the Chinese communist government in Australia's educational, business and government spheres, what is the government doing to limit the expansion of Chinese communist government influence in Australia?
I'm aware in a general sense of the accident that Senator Bernardi refers to and I understand it relates to competition and election between rival student groups at Adelaide university and that the university and relevant authorities have processes for investigating any unacceptable behaviour. Given the sensitivity of the matters that Senator Bernardi has raised, I will take on notice whether there is any further information that I can provide to the Senate and to Senator Bernardi.
I appreciate the minister's undertaking. Chinese companies own or have significant stakes in many strategic and sensitive infrastructure assets, including the ports of Darwin and Melbourne, our electricity poles and wires, 30 per cent of our taxpayer subsidised wind and energy projects, significant water holdings and as much Australian farming land as entities from the previous largest title holder, the UK. When will the government get serious about limiting control of our strategically important assets by companies linked to the Chinese communist government?
Australia, clearly, has a very important bilateral relationship with China. We have a very important trade and economic relationship with China. Foreign investment, including from China, is welcome and essential to support Australia's economic growth. Foreign investment proposals are, as Senator Bernardi would be aware, reviewed on a case-by-case basis to ensure they are not contrary to Australia's national interest. The Foreign Investment Review Board considers all investment proposals that involve a state owned enterprise from any country overseas. The Critical Infrastructure Centre has also been established to provide advice to safeguard our key assets, and that is, of course, now in effect.
On 13 April 1954 the Menzies government established a royal commission on Soviet espionage in Australia. This followed a 1950 Victorian royal commission into communism. Given the long list of concerns, including Attorney-General Porter's statement that, 'We live in a time of unprecedented foreign intelligence activity against Australia,' will the government establish a royal commission into Chinese communist influence in Australia?