The Port of Melbourne
MedCare Asia Pacific Director Andrew Phelan says the “world has changed” since a consortium, including the Chinese sovereign wealth fund, bought the Port of Melbourne in 2016. China’s sovereign wealth fund, the China Investment Corp, was part of a consortium of domestic and global funds which bought the port back in 2016. It comes as concerns grow around Chinese ownership of the Port of Darwin and the Port of Newcastle. “The world has changed, and I think these deals should not go ahead,” Mr Phelan said.
The Port of Darwin
The Northern Territory government leased the Port of Darwin to the Chinese company Landbridge for A$506 million (US$302 million at today’s exchange rates) in 2015. Aside from being a commercial port, it is also a base for Australian defence forces as well as US marines.
In October 2015, the Chinese-owned Landbridge Group won the bid for a lease of Port Darwin. … Shandong Landbridge Group is a privately held company with headquarters in the city of Rizhao, Shandong Province, China, which is owned by Ye Cheng, a billionaire with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
After the federal government introduced legislation which enabled it to repeal Victoria’s Belt and Road deal with China, the Port of Darwin was “the next target”, according to The Australian’s Dennis Shanahan. The Morrison government has recently ordered a review of the Port of Darwin’s 99-year lease to a Chinese company. Defence Officials will advise the National Security Committee of Cabinet whether the port should be handed back to Australia. It comes following the decision – announced by Foreign Minister Marise Payne – to cancel Victoria’s controversial Belt and Road deal. “When they did it, there were government members just wanting to cancel the Darwin Port deal,” Mr Shanahan told Sky News host Peta Credlin. “The Port of Darwin was the next target, there’s no doubt about that.”
The Port of Newcastle
Sky News host Chris Kenny says China has plans to use its 50 per cent stake in the Port of Newcastle to expand it to become “the biggest coal exporting port” in the world – a plan which may not have Australia’s best interests at heart.
“The Chinese stakeholders have big plans for the port of Newcastle they want expand the port to handle more containers as well as being the biggest coal exporting port in the world – will they be looking at our interests first or Chinas?” he said.
Mr Kenny also spoke with ASPI Executive Director Peter Jennings who said the government will have to “unpick” the foreign investment decisions made in the last decade with China as it has become more “aggressive” and “authoritarian” in its relationship with Australia.
“There’s a whole lot of foreign investment decisions that were taken in the 2010’s that I think this government and future governments will have to unpick because the bet they made on China becoming more like Singapore, more open, easier to deal with – has turned out to be wrong,” he said.
“China has become more authoritarian, more aggressive, more difficult to deal with.
“I think it is going to become untenable for us to say that a significant part of our infrastructure … can now be in the hands of companies that see their ultimate loyalty as having to rest towards the Chinese Communist Party.”