Labor MP wants Darwin port in Aussie hands

Labor MP wants Darwin port in Aussie hands


Politics
Labor says the port of Darwin must be put back in Australia's control and a Chinese lease scrapped.

Labor says the port of Darwin must be put back in Australia's control and a Chinese lease scrapped.

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Federal Labor MP Nick Champion has called for a Chinese lease of the port of Darwin to be scrapped.

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Federal Labor MP Nick Champion has called for a Chinese lease of the port of Darwin to be scrapped and put back in Australia's control.

The deputy chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade has become the first federal politician to advocate for the port to be returned to the Australian government.

"I think there was not enough consideration of the national interest in that particular privatisation of this port," he told the ABC on Monday.

He noted the strategic importance of the port, which was leased to Chinese company Landbridge in a 99-year, $500 million deal in 2015.

"It's a very important port because we have significant defence facilities in the Northern Territory and that's the part of the world I guess we have to pay a great deal of attention to," Mr Champion said.

"We should look pretty clearly at making sure that that port is in government hands. It's for those reasons, I think, it should be nationalised."

The port lease had sparked concerns within Defence about Landbridge taking control of what could be considered a strategic asset.

But Mr Champion doesn't believe nationalising the port would anger China, which is Australia's largest trading partner.

"This should be an assertion of our national sovereignty, of our national interest and I think if it's put in those terms then companies, and others, can make their own understandings about why we've done it," he said.

He argued the Foreign Investment Review Board, which has since had its settings tightened, didn't take into account strategic concerns.

But Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the Darwin port lease went through the appropriate decision-making processes at the time.

"All foreign investment proposals take national security considerations into account," she told ABC Radio National.

"I will take my advice from the national security agencies and not from headlines in newspapers."

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has grave concerns about Chinese ownership of Darwin's port.

"I think one day they'd love to have their hands on Australia and they're slowly taking it, not by stealth, by cunning," she told Nine's Today program.

"You can see they're strategically setting themselves up in the islands around Australia as well."

Senator Hanson said she believed China's growing population was looking for somewhere to move and had "their eyes on Australia".

Australian Associated Press

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