Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation watch on Chinese money [The Age]


On the surface, it would seem Australia is not sending coherent messages to the source of fuel to its two-track economy, China.

Arguably, if there hasn’t been enough strain between China and Australia in the aftermath of the Obama Doctrine and establishment of a marine base in Darwin when China claims it was ‘stung by the defence pact’, this strategic move might just compound the problem.

Australia’s security intelligence agency has been tasked officially to keep watch on the inflows of Chinese money.

‘Australia has been the biggest single destination for Chinese money over the past six years, with investments totalling nearly $37 billion, mainly in the resources sector.’

The spark? A decision by treasurer Wayne Swan in March 2009 to block a Chinese take over of the Prominent Hill mine in South Australia had strategic implications as it was within the boundary of the Woomera Test Range.

For more, see China-Aust relationship: defence, spying and big business (ABC News, May 4, 2009) – Here we see some evidence of incoherence, measured or not, with Defence Minister Stephen Smith reportedly saying, “Firstly, it’s not the Defence Department’s decision, it’s the Treasurer’s decision… Secondly, the Treasurer’s made very clear in his public statement – and as a matter of law it’s his decision, not mine – he’s made clear in his public statement that within the Woomera prohibited area, any mining application, or any application for development, has to be specially considered by the Defence Department for national security reasons.”

That said, if we bear in mind China’s fundamental strategy of biding their time and concealing intentions, then we now we have a rather complex game in play here.

Visit ASIO‘s website here.

– – –

ASIO watch on Chinese money
Philip Dorling
Source – The Age, published January 21, 2012

Australia has been the biggest single destination for Chinese money over the past six years. Source - The Age

CHINESE investment in Australia is coming under increased federal government scrutiny, with ASIO and other intelligence groups weighing up possible national security risks.

Foreign investment in critical infrastructure, especially in IT and communications, has become a focus of concern, with agencies warning that the 30-day window for Treasurer Wayne Swan to object to foreign takeovers is too short for security investigations.

Documents released to The Saturday Age under freedom of information reveal that the country’s two peak security and intelligence committees – the National Security Committee of Cabinet and the National Intelligence Co-ordination Committee – have recently focused their attention on foreign investment policy.

Their involvement was sparked by Mr Swan’s decision in March 2009 to block a Chinese takeover of the Prominent Hill mine in South Australia. The mine is within the boundary of the Woomera Test Range, the world’s largest land-based weapons testing area.

The documents show that after the Prominent Hill decision, national security officials quickly turned their attention to broader questions of foreign investment.

“Foreign acquisition of critical infrastructure, especially in the IT and communications sector, is always a significant issue and it’s only going to grow in importance and sensitivity – especially in regard to Chinese investment,” a senior government official told The Saturday Age.

The National Intelligence Co-ordination Committee considered the issue in detail in February 2010. Further discussion by the Homeland and Border Security Policy Co-ordination Group followed in November 2010.

Treasury’s Foreign Investment Review Board convened an inter-agency workshop last February which heard ASIO concerns and at which the Attorney-General’s Department noted the Treasurer has only a 30-day window to object to a foreign investment proposal.

The board convened a further workshop in June that reviewed 34 foreign investment proposals – half ”business” cases and half ”real estate” cases – considered to have national security implications.

Australia has been the biggest single destination for Chinese money over the past six years, with investments totalling nearly $37 billion, mainly in the resources sector.

ASIO and the Attorney-General’s Department subsequently prepared advice, classified “Secret – Australian eyes only” and cleared by then ASIO deputy director-general David Fricker, that was approved by the National Intelligence Co-ordination Committee in July. A similarly classified brief was then submitted to the Cabinet National Security Committee in August.

It is understood major themes included threats from foreign intelligence and criminal groups, the need to harmonise views on reviewing investment proposals and making advice to the Treasurer more timely.

Specific concerns about Chinese investment were revealed by a leaked US embassy cable released last year by WikiLeaks, which showed the Treasury privately admitted the Foreign Investment Review Board was targeting Chinese investment in response to political concern about the control of Australian resources.

In a September 2009 report, New Foreign Investment Guidelines Target China, the embassy told the US State Department that the Australian government wished to ”pose new disincentives for larger-scale Chinese investments” and quoted private remarks by Treasury’s foreign investment division head and then FIRB executive member Patrick Colmer, that new foreign investment guidelines were ”mainly due to growing concerns about Chinese investments in the strategic resources sector”.

Another leaked US embassy cable shows the Attorney-General’s Department consulted ASIO and the Defence Signals Directorate on national security concerns arising from the association of the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei with Optus’ abortive proposal to build the national broadband network.

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Filed under: Australia, Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Communications, Culture, Domestic Growth, Economics, Environment, Government & Policy, Greater China, Influence, Mapping Feelings, Media, military, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Resources, Soft Power, Strategy, The Age, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

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