Darwin port plan could harm Chinese view
The Federal Government has announced it will review the 99-year lease on the Darwin Port, but the business community says that could harm future investment.
The Northern Territory's China Business Council says if the Darwin Port deal is reviewed, other international investors looking at northern Australia could be deterred.
China Business Council president Daryl Guppy is at a major summit featuring hundreds of high-level businesspeople in Shanghai, drumming up investor support to bring more funds to Australia's north.
But that effort could be distracted Federal Government indications that it could review the Chinese-owned Landbridge Group's $506 million deal to operate the Darwin Port on a 99-year lease.
Before he left, Mr Guppy said he expected to face questions about the government and investor relations.
“I will be facing questions about what's blowing up here. In other words; ‘Can the word of Australian industry and governments be relied upon?’” Mr Guppy told ABC reporters.
“That's a pretty serious question to answer.
“When you sign an agreement and you sign it in good faith, and that agreement is broken in bad faith it cast dispersions upon every future potential agreement.”
Mr Guppy says it is important to support large-scale investment in the north.
“Unfortunately Australians and Australian companies and Australian funds are not prepared to take that risk on. We have to look for overseas capital. In this case it has to come from China,” he said.
“Until we're prepared to support investment ourselves with our own Australian money, we're always going to rely on overseas investors.
“If we turn this down, then it casts a cloud over all future investment from China, not just into the NT, but into Australia, because it means our word cannot be trusted.”
Mr Guppy was eager to state that the port deal was thoroughly researched.
He backed the NT Chief Minister's criticism of claims from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which recently stated that Landbridge was a commercial “front” of the Chinese Communist Party.
“We're talking about a large-scale business that of course does business with a wide variety of people,” Mr Guppy said.
“Some of those will be in relation to the military in China, in relation to private business.
“There are massive logistic supply chains involved in this.
“To single out just one aspect of a company's business and say they are therefore a creature of the People's Liberation Army is very false thinking, very xenophobic thinking.”
The Landbridge Group has also denied the institute's claims.
“Landbridge Group is not a state-owned enterprise. It is a private company owned by the Ye Family. Mr Ye has never been in the military or the People's Liberation Army,” a recent offical statement said.
Landbridge Australia managing director Mike Hughes said the criticism was based on a misunderstanding of text and photographs on the Chinese company's website.
“The material referred to has been misconstrued,” Mr Hughes said.
“The pictures on the website show security staff at the company's petrochemical operation who are also responsible for safety and emergency accident rescue work at the facility.”
Reports in the Australian Financial Review say the military links have been confirmed by Chinese media outlets. [http://www.afr.com/news/world/chinese-stateowned-newspaper-confirms-landbridges-military-ties-20151116-gl0i2v]