The Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has promised the government will publically release their review of Darwin Harbour’s 99-year lease to a Chinese company with direct ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
Darwin Port, an important gateway and strategic resource hub for Australia, was leased to Chinese-owned Landbridge in 2015 for 99 years at a price of A$506 million (US$363 million), a decision made by the Northern Territory’s former Liberal government.
The lease raised concerns in both Australia’s Defence Department and the U.S. government, with former U.S. President Barack Obama conveying his concerns directly to then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
However, Albanese said on Aug. 22 that he would be releasing the review.
“I have said that we will be reviewing the Darwin port ownership of the lease,” Albanese told reporters.“People would be aware that it was leased out to a company connected, very directly, with the government of the People’s Republic of China.”
“At the time that happened, we opposed it. I was the shadow [infrastructure] minister at the time, and we were concerned about that, and we expressed our opposition,” he said on Aug. 22.
“I have asked for advice and when we receive it, we of course will make it public.”
Media Seek Access to Port Review
The controversial Darwin Harbour lease became one of the hot topics in Australia’s federal election debate this year.
Albanese, then opposition leader, accused Morrison of failing to prevent the signing of the lease when he was the Treasurer, while Morrison countered that the federal government was unable to interfere with the Northern Territory’s decision.
After winning the federal election, Albanese confirmed in June that the Labor Government would start a new review of the lease.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) revealed that after Labor’s win in May, the media sought access to the review under Freedom of Information.
The Defence Department refused ABC’s request, saying the material was exempt because it had been created for cabinet, while releasing a series of “talking points” instead, which shed light on some related questions.