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Bureaucrats in the Australian Defence Force have determined there is 'no national security risk' that would justify stripping a Chinese company of its 99-year lease to control the Port of Darwin - despite soaring hostilities between the two countries.

Landbridge signed a controversial $506million agreement with the Northern Territory government back in 2015 to take control of the strategically important asset.

The surrender of a key port next to a major military base housing thousands of American marines caught then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull off guard and enraged US president Barack Obama whose administration said it was 'blindsided'.

But the federal government had no power to block the commercial deal going ahead with the Territory government.

It has since come under intense scrutiny from military and economic analysts as diplomatic relations between Beijing and Canberra have dramatically soured in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

Bureaucrats in the Australian Defence Force have determined there is 'no national security risk' that would justify stripping a Chinese company of its 99-year lease to control the Port of Darwin. Pictured: A graphic from a Landbridge promotional video outlining China's asses to the Australian port

Bureaucrats in the Australian Defence Force have determined there is 'no national security risk' that would justify stripping a Chinese company of its 99-year lease to control the Port of Darwin. Pictured: A graphic from a Landbridge promotional video outlining China's asses to the Australian port

Pictured: The Royal Caribbean ship Legend of the Seas docked at Port of Darwin - which is subject to a 99 year lease with a Chinese company

Pictured: The Royal Caribbean ship Legend of the Seas docked at Port of Darwin - which is subject to a 99 year lease with a Chinese company

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SHOULD AUSTRALIA CLAIM THE PORT OF DARWIN BACK?

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  • No 29 votes

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With beefed-up laws to veto state and territory deal with foreign governments, Scott Morrison back in May quietly asked for an urgent review into the Chinese deal as national security experts warned it was a 'strategic own goal'.

But Defence has now handed over their report over to the National Security Committee of Cabinet finding that unpicking the agreement would not be wise.

Former Howard government minister and now chair of the international engagement committee of the Business Council of Australia, Warwick Smith, said the heads of Defence, Home Affairs, ASIO and ASIS, do not consider the Port of Darwin as a 'high-priority issue'.

'It was subject to Defence ­consideration at the time. They went through it in ­detail. They found a lease… It was a reasonably good return for what was a basically low level piece of port area,' he told .

'My view is that defence have probably come to the right conclusion. National security concerns have changed over the last five years, and I appreciate that. But there's not a lot to be gained by picking apart a port lease like this when there are other ­investments taking place in our country.

'It doesn't gain on the security side. It unpicks a commercial ­arrangement that sends a negative signal. I don't think it's the wisest thing to do right now.'

At the time of the review, Michael Shoebridge, the director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's defence program said he wondered whether operating the port is in the 'company's commercial interests' amid 'the strategic environment they find themselves'.

'I think it's obvious that if the Darwin port lease was being considered today, the result would not be to lease it to a Chinese-owned company for 99 years,' he told the .

'It seems a strategic own goal for one of the best parts of Darwin Harbour to be in the control of a Chinese-owned operator.'

Luke Gosling, the federal Labor member for Solomon - the electorate that contains Darwin - also slammed the deal saying the city's port is a strategic asset that 'should be under Australian control'.

'The Coalition were asleep at the wheel - or worse - when it waved through this century-long lease for a short-term cash injection,' he told Daily Mail Australia.

'From the time of the sale, I have consistently challenged the decision to lease our nationally strategic port to a foreign entity.

'The $506million was spent years ago, and the lease still has another 94 years to go.'

There are about 2,200 US Marines (pictured) stationed a the RAAF base in Darwin

There are about 2,200 US Marines (pictured) stationed a the RAAF base in Darwin

In November 2015, the Northern Territory government decided to lease the Port of Darwin (pictured) to a Chinese company for 99 years

In November 2015, the Northern Territory government decided to lease the Port of Darwin (pictured) to a Chinese company for 99 years

Canberra's once rosy relationship with Beijing first hit a hurdle when the federal government banned Chinese 5G builder Huawei from the construction of Australia's National Broadband Network in August, 2018, over national security concerns.

This, followed by a call from the Morrison cabinet in April, 2020, for an independent international inquiry into the origins of the Covid pandemic resulted in a bitter backlash from the totalitarian regime.

The communist state slugged Australian producers with billions of dollars worth of arbitrary tariffs and bans on key exports like barley, wine, beef, cotton, copper, coal, seafood and timber.

Mr Morrison has said: 'If there is advice from the Defence Department or our ­security agencies that change their view about the national ­security implications of any piece of critical infrastructure, you could expect me as Prime Minister to take that advice very seriously and act accordingly.'

The communist giant owns a significant number of Australian businesses and assets throughout the nation including mining, energy, and agriculture companies, as well as real estate and even air strips.

Chinese companies have poured billions into Australia in recent years, snapping up companies, land and key assets

Chinese companies have poured billions into Australia in recent years, snapping up companies, land and key assets

Land 

China is now the largest foreign owner of land in Australia with Chinese companies in control of 2.4 per cent of the nation's soil.

Investors from the the United Kingdom own more with 2.1 per cent and buyers from the US are joint third with 0.7 per cent, according to the 2020 .

Most of the foreign-owned land is in Western Australia and the Northern Territory and is used for cattle farming.   

Between 2017 and 2018, Chinese companies added 50,000 hectares to their Australian property portfolio which total more than 9.1million hectares. 

In 2019, one of the biggest Chinese landowners in Australia was accused of illegally clearing Aboriginal land in north Western Australia.

Zenith Australia Group, owned by Shanghai Cred, owns seven properties in Western Australia including Yakka Munga and Mount Elizabeth Stations in the Kimberley, Marvel Loch Station and Goldfields Station.

The WA government issued a stop-work order after Walalakoo Aboriginal Corporation, the custodians of the land, claimed the company breached a lease agreement by clearing 120 hectares without permission.

Locals say important flora including boab trees had been ripped up. 

Shanghai Cred, which also owns a third of Gina Rineheart's company Australian Outback Beef, lost an appeal against the stop-work order. 

Companies 

In 2019 Mengniu Dairy, which is 16 per cent owned by food processing company Cofco, which is co-owned by the Chinese state, acquired Tasmanian baby formula company Bellamy's Organic for $1.5billion. 

Mengniu Dairy Company bought Bellamy's

Mengniu Dairy Company bought Bellamy's

Before the takeover bid, shares in Bellamy's plunged 62 per cent in 18 months.

There were allegations the Chinese state brought this plunge about by not approving Bellamy's' request to sell organic formula in Chinese stores. 

The board of the Tasmania-based company denied the takeover had anything to do with fast-tracking Chinese regulation to allow expansion in the country.  

In 2017, Chinese company Goldwind bought Stockyard Hill Wind Farm, which has 149 turbines 35km west of Ballarat, from Origin Energy for $110million. 

The following year it started building another wind farm of 48 turbines in the Tasmanian Central Highlands.

State-owned Powerchina purchased 80 per cent of the wind farm for an undisclosed fee in April that year.

The company said the project will 'promote the development of the wind power industry, boost local economic development and will help Australia reach the goal set for renewable energy by 2020.'

Meanwhile in New South Wales, coalmines in the Hunter region have been snapped up by a state-owned Chinese firm.

In 2017, Chinese company Goldwind bought Stockyard Hill Wind Farm (pictured), which has 149 turbines 35km west of Ballarat, from Origin Energy for $110million

In 2017, Chinese company Goldwind bought Stockyard Hill Wind Farm (pictured), which has 149 turbines 35km west of Ballarat, from Origin Energy for $110million

In 2017, Yancoal Australia, owned by Yanzhou Coal Mining Company, acquired Coal & Allied from Rio Tinto for $3.5billion, becoming Australia's largest thermal coal mining company.  

The move prompted warnings from some analysts that China was trying to buy up access to Australia's energy resources.

Tim Murray of research firm J Capital told the

'They've got a basic view of 'why not use someone else's resources before we use our own'.' 

Melbourne-based Energy Australia was bought by China's State Power Investment Corporation in 2016. 

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