Monday, January 29, 2018
Darwin’s Chinese port owners Landbridge in new buying scare
A report that Landbridge has expressed interest in a stake in South Australia’s Flinders Ports, which controls a crucial Port Adelaide site near where Defence’s $50 billion future submarines program will be built, has prompted more security warnings.
The report says retiring SA Trade and Investment Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith and SA Government bureaucrats in September met Landbridge’s billionaire owner and president Ye Cheng.
Both the SA Government and Flinders Ports say no formal “proposal” for an investment in the company has been made by Landbridge. In 2015 Landbridge’s lease of the Darwin Port caught then US president Barack Obama by surprise and he is said to have questioned Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about why the deal went through.
At the time Defence said there was nothing to fear from the Darwin Port agreement.
The SA meeting was in September last year and was attended by Landbridge’s billionaire owner and president Mr Cheng, a national committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, along with port operators.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute executive director Peter Jennings, who has long voiced his anger over the Darwin Port lease, said any Chinese attempt to take an interest in SA infrastructure would attract close Federal Government scrutiny. Mr Jennings is formerly a senior defence department official and prime ministerial adviser. He said the Port Adelaide site was one of Australia’s most sensitive and of “extremely high interest to Chinese intelligence”.
“With regard to the submarine construction (nearby), we really are talking about the jewel in the crown of sensitive technology,” Mr Jennings said.
“The port would also be of extremely high interest to Chinese intelligence, because they are actively out there looking for any advantage they can have in terms of intellectual property theft, to get it for themselves.
“If you have got something that is within visual range, that also means it is an area from which you can have a wide array of electronic eavesdropping technology used to gather data from the port site.”