New Laws on Their Way in Response to Chinese Pilot Training Probe

New Laws on Their Way in Response to Chinese Pilot Training Probe
An F-35 fighter jet pilot and crew prepare for a mission at Al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on Aug. 5, 2019. (Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury/U.S. Air Force via AP)
Daniel Y. Teng

New laws are on their way to stop ex-military personnel from training or sharing secrets with a foreign entity without express government permission, according to Defence Minister Richard Marles.

Marles revealed the moves following revelations two Australian-based former pilots (one from the United States and the other British) were under investigation for training Chinese fighter pilots.

“One of the recommendations [from a recent Defence Review] does recommend we develop additional legislation which the government will now pursue,” he told 2GB Radio on Feb. 15, noting more clarity was needed around the “full breadth” of secrets the Australian Defence Force (ADF) needed to keep tight-lipped about.

“To make sure there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that not just the secrets that people might come into contact with— but everything that surrounds it—forms part of that,” he said. “And if you release any of that information to anybody—and that would include a foreign power—that would be a breach of Australian law and subject to prosecution.”

Marles also said the riot act had already been read to the ADF on what was expected of personnel in terms of managing classified information.

Also, in response to the incident involving Chinese spy balloons floating over North America, Marles said the ADF had the capability to track any such device in Australia.

“We’re confident that we will be able to deal with the situation,” he said.

In October, the UK Ministry of Defence issued an intelligence alert after 30 ex-fighter pilots were alleged to have trained members of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

South Australian-based Keith Hartley was also allegedly being investigated for his role as the chief operating officer of the Test Flying Academy of South Africa, an academy that British authorities warned could be an intermediary for Beijing to recruit pilots.

The 73-year-old Hartley’s home was raided late last year by police. His experience includes flying some of the fastest jets in the world for the UK’s Royal Air Force.

His friend, Daniel Edmund Duggan, is now facing charges of conspiracy under the U.S. Arms Export Control Act.

Duggan holds both U.S. and Australian citizenship and was arrested on Oct. 21 in the regional city of Orange in New South Wales.

U.S. authorities allege that Duggan broke arms control laws by training Chinese military pilots to land on aircraft carriers on three separate occasions in 2010 and 2012.

Victoria Kelly-Clark contributed to this article.