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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 13894

National Security

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (14:18): I seek clarification, Mr Speaker. The minister cannot just keep palming off questions to poor old Barnaby Joyce!

The SPEAKER: The member for Kennedy will resume his seat. The member for Kennedy can ask questions of ministers in question time. If he wishes to seek a clarification or ask me a question, he needs to do it under standing order 103 at the conclusion of question time. Does the member for Kennedy have a question for a minister?

Mr KATTER: I will try again. My question is to the Minister for Trade and Investment. The United States ex-Secretary of State was stunned by the giving of the Port of Darwin—the South Pacific's only Panamax port—to the Chinese. A moderate but more ominous rebuke came from the President. Minister, has the mindless arrogance and insensitivity previously applied to Indonesia now been extended to the United States? Finally, would not prudent development fear the granting of monopoly powers over all North Australian exports to a foreign Checkpoint Charlie?

Mr ROBB (GoldsteinMinister for Trade and Investment) (14:19): I thank the honourable member for that very lucid question. I advise the member that the process that was engaged in with the sale of the Port of Darwin was one which was totally compliant with all of the legal requirements that we have in this country regarding foreign investment. But the Territory government decided to go well beyond the legal requirements.

Mr Katter interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Kennedy will cease interjecting.

Mr ROBB: I did not interrupt the member for Katter's very interesting question!

Mr Katter interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Kennedy will cease interjecting.

Mr ROBB: Secondly, the Territory government, in fact, sought the involvement of the Foreign Investment Review Board from day one. They were not required to do that. The Foreign Investment Review Board followed that process from day one over a period of nearly 18 months, I understand. Then the Defence department was engaged and brought into the picture by the Foreign Investment Review Board. The Defence department, at every level, including a level which had contact with the US government, reached a decision. Dennis Richardson, the secretary of Defence, made it very clear that they had no objections to the sale of the Port of Darwin to Landbridge. He said:

No part of Defence had a concern from a security perspective …

The Defence department was consulted about it. They did not have any concerns about it. I advise the member that we, as a government, take great care with the propriety and integrity of foreign investment, as does the Northern Territory government. We have to carry the nation with us. We have to have national support. We have to act in the national interest of our country. That is what happened with the Port of Darwin. That is what happened with other major assets. If we do not get foreign capital into this country, we will not develop as we should.