#AceNewsReport – Mar.18: The Northern Territory government, under the previous CLP administration, leased the strategically important infrastructure to Chinese firm Landbridge in 2015.
Australian Government Consider reclaiming Darwin Port from Chinese company Landbridge, committee advises federal government: ‘The 99-year deal triggered immediate concerns among some defence and diplomatic analysts because it gave operational control of the port to a foreign company at a time when tensions between the two nations were escalating’
updated 2h ago
The United States, which in 2012 began deploying hundreds of US Marines to Darwin each year, felt so blindsided by the port deal that then-president Barack Obama conveyed his concerns directly to then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth on Wednesday released a report examining Australia’s trade and investment reliance on certain countries and the need to diversify its strategies.
Among its 21 recommendations, the committee suggested the federal government provide a report on whether the Darwin Port lease is subject to Australia’s new Foreign Relations Act.
The legislation gives the Commonwealth the power to veto foreign agreements struck by states and territories, as well as local governments and universities.
The committee stated: “[If the port deal is subject to the act], consider taking measures to have the Port of Darwin brought back under Australian ownership if current arrangements are not deemed to be in the national interest.”
It also recommended other Australian ports and strategic infrastructure owned or leased by foreign corporations be reviewed under the act.
The committee’s chairman, LNP MP George Christensen, said the recommendations were aimed at protecting Australia’s national interest and security in sensitive and critical areas.
“Notably, there are recommendations that go to serious concerns regarding state-owned enterprises and state-linked enterprises funding our universities and owning or leasing our strategic infrastructure, including the Port of Darwin,” Mr Christensen said.
“Given the ongoing tensions with China, it is an unacceptable national security risk to have Chinese state-owned and state-linked enterprises involved in our universities … and our strategic infrastructure.”
The four Labor members of the 10-person parliamentary committee provided additional comments to the report.
They accused the NT’s former CLP government and the federal Liberal-National coalition government of a “catalogue of failures” in allowing the Darwin Port lease to go ahead.
“Their poor decision-making, incompetent governance and pursuit of short-term monetary gain has compromised Australia’s long-term strategic security,” the Labor members said.
“The government must explain what action the Foreign Minister may or may not take under the act in relation to the 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin to a Chinese company.”
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner has previously said his government, which is mired in debt, would not contemplate buying back the port from Landbridge.
“My advice for the Prime Minister, if he’s going to go down that path is, don’t buy back the port,” he was quoted as saying last year.
“[Instead] invest in things that will grow jobs for the Territory.”
#AceNewsDesk report …………Published: Mar.18: 2021:
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