Ending China’s Port Lease in Northern Australia Possible: Defence Minister

By AAP
April 24, 2021 Updated: April 25, 2021

The Port of Darwin lease is one of many deals that have been sewn up with China and one Foreign Minister Marise Payne could consider ending after she tore up Victoria’s the Belt and Road initiative with the Asian giant last week.

The Northern Territory government signed a 99-year lease for the Port of Darwin to a Chinese-owned company in 2015.

“There are literally thousands of these cases to look at and the foreign affairs minister is working through all of that,” Defence Minister Peter Dutton told ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.

“I am not pre-empting or suggesting that she’s looking at it. I think it is a question for Marise to look at these individual cases. If it is not in our national interests, then obviously she will act.”

The decision to end Victoria’s infrastructure initiative with China was the latest twist in the growing Sino-Australian tensions.

Within the region, there are concerns that China’s ruling communist party is progressing with its aim of claiming Taiwan.

“I don’t think it should be discounted, I think China has been very clear about the reunification and that’s been a long-held objective of theirs,” Dutton said.

“If you look at any of the rhetoric that is coming out of China from spokesmen, particularly in recent weeks and months in response to different suggestions that have been made, they have been very clear about that goal.”

He said there is a significant amount of activity and an animosity between Taiwan and China.

“For us we want to make sure we continue to be a good neighbour in the region, that we work with our partners and with our allies,” he said.

“Nobody wants to see conflict between China and Taiwan or anywhere else.”

“We need to recognise that our region is changing,” he also told Nine News’ Weekend Today, while paying tribute to Australian Defence Force personnel who have served in Afghanistan on Anzac Day.

“China is militarising ports across our region. We need to deal with all of that, and that is exactly what we are now focused on,” he said, adding that Australia’s withdrawal from Afghanistan comes at a time when Australia will be turning its attention closer to home amid growing aggression by the Chinese Communist Party in the Pacific region.

 

By Colin Brinsden