Every day Beijing launches cyberattacks against Australian businesses and government departments, former Labor Senator Stephen Conroy has revealed.
The ex-defence minister made the comments after Labor elder and former Prime Minister Paul Keating claimed the Chinese Communist Party posed no military threat to Australia.
Keating’s remarks formed part of a stinging and extensive critique of the AUKUS deal where he lambasted Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Foreign Minister Penny Wong, and Defence Minister Richard Marles for continuing with the trilateral deal—viewed as a bulwark against Chinese military aggression in the Indo-Pacific.
In response, Conroy said Keating avoided several major issues while saying the most “laughable and embarrassing” part was to claim Beijing only posed a threat if it physically invaded Australia.
“Paul, they’ve invented the internet since you were in government,” Conroy told Sky News Australia. “If you get the security report—which I have read and you haven’t read—they attack Australian companies, government, [and] infrastructure every single night.
“Every single morning, you get up, and you get the security reports. You see the attack that China is engaged in on a daily basis against Australia, its companies, and its national interests.
“Richard Marles, Penny Wong, and Anthony Albanese have shown the courage to say ‘enough is enough.’ China can’t be believed in any of its words, just look at what it’s doing in Australia and all around the world.
“It takes courage to stand up for China on those issues, Paul, where’s your courage on this issue?”
Keating Launches Salvos at CCP Critics
During his address to the National Press Club on March 15, Keating played down the threat posed by Beijing.
“You can’t impute … that tariffs on wine or barley is equivalent to an invasion of the country. China does not threaten Australia,” he said. The economic coercion campaign against Australia was launched after then-Foreign Minister Marise Payne called for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19 in 2020.
“What would be the point of China wanting to occupy Sydney and Melbourne? Militarily? And could they ever do it? Could they ever bring the numbers here? It would be an armada of troopships to do it,” Keating said. “You don’t need a briefing from the dopey security agencies that we have in Canberra to tell you that.”
According to the Pentagon’s 2022 China Military Power Report, China currently has 340 warships, but this figure is expected to grow to 400 in two years.
Keating also played down the persecution of the Uyghur minority in China, which the United Nations has labelled crimes against humanity, saying the facts were in “dispute” and also tried to explain his previous role with the China Development Bank.
“I left five years ago. I was on the China Development Bank board for 13 years, and ten years as chairman with Henry Kissinger and Paul Vaulker, the former director of the IMF,” he said.
“You know what our fee was? $5,000 a year. $5,000. They didn’t even call it a fee. They called it an honourarium. I have no commercial interest in China whatsoever.”
In response, Conroy asked, “Is that the only gig you got from a Chinese-related company? Just put it all on the record.”
“So, Paul, how about you give us a whole history since you left [politics?]”
The former senator also called on Keating to “have some courage” to talk about Beijing’s close relationship with the neighbouring Solomon Islands and its military deal.
“China have come in with all sorts of bribes and offers to build facilities and military base on our doorstep,” he said.
“China’s got the biggest military spend in the world at the moment. The growth in their military is just extraordinary. Why do they need that in the Solomon Islands?
“Have some courage and talk about those issues.”