Prime Minister Scott Morrison has received no advice that a Chinese company’s 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin is against Australia’s national interest.
The Northern Territory government awarded the lease to Landbridge in 2015, sparking national security concerns about the port’s strategic importance.
Mr Morrison said he would act if there was a change to advice about implications for Australia’s national interest.
- “But that is not something that has been presented to me or suggested to me,” he told Darwin radio Mix 104.9 on Thursday.
Mr Morrison said the Port of Darwin was the name for a section of the area, rather than the entire port.
“Military and defence capabilities are not compromised by that, but I understand the perception here,” he said.
“What has to determine our decisions has to be the national interest. It has to be based on proper advice from defence, security and intelligence agencies.”
China labelled Home Affairs boss Mike Pezzullo a troublemaker after he warned “the drums of war are beating” and raised the prospect of armed conflict.
But Mr Morrison said the government was not overstating any one threat or issue despite pouring more money into defence.
“We scan the horizon and we understand what Australia’s national interests are, and then we equip our forces accordingly,” he said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian labelled Mr Pezzullo’s remarks extremely irresponsible.
“Some individual politicians in Australia, out of their selfish interests, are keen to make statements that incite confrontation and hype up threat of war, which is extremely irresponsible,” he said.
“These people are the real troublemakers.”
Defence Minister Peter Dutton recently said armed conflict between China and Taiwan could not be discounted.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the focus was on maintaining peace but the defence force needed to be well resourced.
He said the trade relationship with Australia’s biggest trading partner was important but there would be no backward step on human rights or national security issues.
Labor home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said ministers, not bureaucrats, should be leading foreign policy discussions.
“There is no scenario in which China doesn’t matter,” she told Sky News on Thursday.
“We want a productive relationship with China – one where Australian values are understood and respected – and that is up to the elected officials to lead that engagement.”
The relationship between the two nations has crumbled recently, in part sparked by Australia’s early call for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus.
China has launched multiple trade strikes on Australian commodities as tensions continue to increase.