Where’s the evidence of foreign interference, asks Labor

By Tom Ravlic

April 29, 2022

Karen Andrews
Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

National security has again become a flashpoint between the Coalition and the Australian Labor Party in the election campaign, with Labor calling on the federal government to produce evidence that the timing of the signing of the China-Solomon Islands pact was an act of foreign interference.

The signing of the agreement between China and Solomon Islands has seen rhetorical scuffles break out between the two political parties as well as the launch by the federal opposition of a bundle of policy initiatives designed to extend outreach to nations in the region to persuade them to treat Australia as a partner of first choice.

Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews has said in a series of media interviews that people are asking whether the timing of the signing of the agreement between China and Solomon Islands is a coincidence.

“Beijing is very clearly aware that we’re in a federal election campaign here at the moment and now we have a significant focus on what is happening in the Pacific Islands, what China is doing. Now, why now? Why in the middle of a federal election campaign is all this coming to light?” Andrews told 4BC host Neil Breen.

“I mean, we talk about political interference and that has many forms so I think we need to be very much aware of what Beijing is doing, what its plans are, what it’s trying to achieve in the actions it’s taking in the Solomons, but not exclusively in the Solomons.”

Shadow Home Affairs minister Kristina Keneally wrote a letter to the minister asking for an intelligence briefing to see if there was some basis in fact for the “conspiratorial fantasies and unhinged commentary about foreign interference in our election campaign”.

Keneally said caretaker conventions during the election campaign require the government to provide intelligence briefings to the opposition party if there is intelligence pointing to deliberate foreign interference by China.

She said Andrews’ claim about Chinese foreign interference in the campaign is not the first time the Home Affairs minister has flagged intelligence issues that should have been the subject of a briefing to the opposition if there was any sound foundation to the concerns.

“Just a few weeks ago, she made another suggestion that she had some kind of intelligence relating to another matter. I wrote to her then and asked for a briefing. We’ve repeatedly requested such a briefing. Nothing has been forthcoming,” Keneally said.

“What I expect in this circumstance is nothing will be forthcoming either, because Karen Andrews can’t substantiate her claims. If she can, then she needs to ensure that the Labor opposition, as the alternate government, is briefed.”


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