Australian intelligence agencies monitoring possible Chinese interference in the federal election

Australian intelligence agencies monitoring possible Chinese interference in the federal election

Australian intelligence agencies are monitoring possible Chinese interference in the federal election.

 Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrew said last week the timing of Beijing’s security deal with the Solomon Islands was significant and Beijing was ‘clearly aware’ Australia was in the middle of a federal election.

‘We talk about political interference and that has many forms so I think we need to be very much aware of what Beijing is doing,’ she said.

Labor took aim at the minister with campaign spokesman Jim Chalmers saying her comments were ‘remarkably desperate and remarkably unhinged’.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told Sky News on Sunday the comments were legitimate.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrew said Australian security will be watching China’s moves in the Solomon Islands, adding Beijing was ‘clearly aware’ Australia is in the middle of an election

‘We have known that foreign interference is a real risk in the Australian electorate landscape and in Australian politics generally,’ he said.

‘It’s why we as a government put in place foreign interference laws as part of a range of different protections we have applied to Australia in response to the more aggressive and assertive stance of China and indeed other risks over recent years.’

Asked whether interference was occurring, he said: ‘That will be a matter for our intelligence analysts and others who would be no doubt monitoring these matters very closely.’

‘We have seen enormous hostility in the commentary from elements of the Chinese communist party and their mouthpiece organs in Beijing towards this government,’ he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described a possible Chinese military base in the Solomons as a ‘red line’

‘We want to fight this election on the policies as they matter to Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described a possible Chinese military base in the Solomons as a ‘red line’, but is taking the Solomon Islands government at its word that no such base is intended.

Senator Birmingham said such a base ‘may necessitate other basing or operational decisions that the US or other partner countries might need to make into the future’.

‘We will continue to work with Prime Minister Sogavare and others across the Pacific and we acknowledge his public statements and ongoing commitments that there will not be foreign military bases established in the Solomon Islands.

The Solomon Islands have signed a security deal with China but has said the Communist Party will not build a military base

‘And we will continue to provide the record levels of assistance.’

Asked how a Labor government would approach China, foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said it was a matter of ‘sensibly, calmly, and consistently’ managing differences in values and interests.

‘The reality is we had a prime minister who dropped the ball when it came to the Pacific … we will seek to (work) consistently and calmly,’ she told the ABC.

‘We have to work with all sovereign nations in our region.’

The news comes as the Labor Party holds its official campaign launch at the Optus Stadium in Perth.

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said it was a matter of ‘sensibly, calmly, and consistently’ managing differences in values and interests

WA Labor Premier Mark McGowan introduced Labor leader Anthony Albanese  ‘the next prime minister of Australia’ at the event on Sunday as insiders say the party is confident it can win three Liberal-held WA seats in the upcoming Federal Election..

The premier on Sunday praised Mr Albanese’s understanding of the state’s important resources and highlighting his own government’s track record in managing the Covid pandemic.

He added that WA had produced two of the nation’s greatest citizens in wartime – prime ministers John Curtin and Bob Hawke, the latter having told him ‘he always identified as a Western Australian’.

‘We know that it is Labor governments that best manage our economy and responsibly manage our finances,’ Mr McGowan said.

WA Labor Premier Mark McGowan introduced Labor leader Anthony Albanese ‘the next prime minister of Australia’ at Labor’s campaign launch on Sunday

Labor has sought to present Mr McGowan and his federal counterpart as close allies, playing down past visits to WA by Mr Albanese in which the pair did not publicly appear together.

Mr McGowan described Mr Albanese as resilient, authentic and one of the most experienced political figures in the nation.

‘He is a fundamentally decent person, driven by empathy and a deep sense of civic responsibility,’ Mr McGowan said.

‘I have every confidence he will make a fine prime minister.’

LABOR’S CAMPAIGN LAUNCH ANNOUNCEMENTS 

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has unveiled new policies on health, housing and equality as he launched the party’s campaign in Perth.

HOUSING

  • The Help to Buy scheme will provide an equity contribution of as much as 40 per cent of the purchase price of a new home and up to 30 per cent for an existing dwelling for 10,000 Australians.
  • The scheme enables savings of up to $380,000 for new homes and $285,000 for existing ones, with price caps of between $550,000 and $950,000 depending on the state and region.
  • Australians will be able to buy an additional stake in the home, owned by the federal government, in five per cent increments or pay the government back when they sell.
  • Homebuyers will avoid lenders mortgage insurance but still need a two per cent deposit and qualify for a standard loan.
  • Australians with a taxable income of up to $90,000 for individuals and up to $120,000 for couples can access the scheme.
  • The scheme will cost around $329 million over four years.
  • Labor will also establish a National Housing Supply and Affordability Council.

MEDICINES

  • Medication on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will be cut by $12.50, bringing the maximum price of listed medicines to $30.

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

  • Labor will build more electric vehicle charging stations across Australia through a $39.3 million investment, matched by the NRMA.
  • Up to $80 million to deliver up to 16 hydrogen stations on Australia’s busiest freight routes.
  • Many electric vehicles will be exempt from import tariffs and fringe benefits tax.
  • Labor will double the Driving the Nation Fund to $500 million, allowing the Commonwealth to co-invest in additional EV chargers, as well as hydrogen and biofuels refuelling infrastructure.

MANUFACTURING

  • Labor will use $1 billion as part of its $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund to develop value-added products from Australian resources.
  • Minerals like lithium and nickel used in batteries will be processed in Australia.
  • One in every 10 jobs on federally funded worksites will be filled by apprentices or trainees.

EQUALITY

  • Gender pay equity will become an objective of the Fair Work Act.
  • The Fair Work Commission’s powers to order pay increases for workers in low paid, female-dominated industries will be increased.

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