National Security

Coalition wants annual intelligence analysis of China

June 11, 2024

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Ben Packham

The Australian

The Coalition wants the nation’s peak intelligence assessment body to issue annual threat assessments calling out Chinese foreign interference, saying Beijing’s relentless propaganda operations could not go unanswered.

Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson will propose the new role for the Office of National Intelligence in a major speech on Tuesday, arguing its “unparalleled situational awareness” is not being sufficiently utilised.

Senator Paterson will tell the Global Information Conference in Adelaide that China has long placed “information warfare” at the centre of its strategic plans, and Australia needs to fight back with truth and transparency.

Pointing to the Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, he will flag similar yearly statements by ONI if the Coalition is elected.

The proposed assessments would focus on Australia’s immediate region and “should provide specific examples of foreign interference, cyber-attacks, corruption and coercion”, Senator Paterson will say.

The director-general of intelligence, Andrew Shearer, could be called upon to deliver an annual speech on his agency’s assessment, like those provided each year by ASIO boss Mike Burgess, Senator Paterson will suggest.

“These kinds of disclosures serve to shine a light on false narratives perpetuated by Beijing, which can deter China from under­taking coercive activities targeting countries in our region, and equip those countries to recognise and respond to activities when they occur,” he will say.

The plan comes as Labor continues a hyper-cautious approach to dealing with Beijing, with Anthony Albanese refusing on Monday to confirm a widely anticipated visit to Australia this week by China’s No. 2 leader, Premier Li Qiang.

The Prime Minister said he welcomed the nations’ re-engagement, and the trip would be announced “in the usual way” with simultaneous statements in Canberra and Beijing.

Senator Paterson will point to China’s coercion and corruption of Pacific officials, saying its policing and security agreements in countries such as Solomon Islands are “a beachhead for more malign influence on the region”.

He will argue that Beijing’s “elite-capture model” is corrosive to democracy and would be deeply unpopular among the region’s ordinary citizens if it was fully understood.

The Coalition has also called for a crackdown on Chinese social media app TikTok if elected, saying Australia needs to pass legislation similar to that in the US to force the company’s parent company, ByteDance, to divest to a non-Chinese owner.

Senator Paterson has said if Australia did not regulate, it could be locked out of a safer version of the app forced by the US move.

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