GT Voice: Canberra’s new plan against Chinese firm’s leasing of Darwin port self-destructive
Published: Mar 31, 2022 08:47 PM
Photo taken on March 14, 2017 shows a bird's eye view of Darwin Port's cargo wharf in Australia. Photo: Xinhua

Photo taken on March 14, 2017 shows a bird's eye view of Darwin Port's cargo wharf in Australia. Photo: Xinhua


Citing clues from the federal budget and a press release from Australian Infrastructure Minister Barnaby Joyce and then confirmation from Australian officials, several Australian media outlets on Thursday reported that the Australian government will announce a new port to be built in the strategically important city of Darwin, a move that some reports called a "major blow to China" and could "check Chinese control of key asset." 

While details remain sketchy, if the Australian government follows through with the plan, it would mark Canberra's renewed attempt to undercut Chinese company Landbridge Group's 99-year lease over the Port of Darwin. The Australian government, in order to please Washington, has made multiple attempts to sabotage the agreement, to no avail.   

It is no secret that the US has been critical about the port leasing agreement since 2015, openly expressing "security concerns" about the deal. Some Australian politicians, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, keenly adopted Washington's narrative and have been constantly targeting the lease, in an ever-widening crackdown campaign against business ties with China, even though an official defense review showed that there were no national security grounds for the Morrison government to overturn the port's 99-year agreement.
Australia US Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Needless to say, the reported plan for a new port is purely political, because it surely doesn't make any economic sense. Darwin is a small Australian city with a population of about 150,000 people. It is hard to see the necessity of building two ports in such a sparsely populated location. Moreover, after securing a 99-year lease for the Port of Darwin's commercial operations in 2015, Landbridge Group invested heavily in improving the port's capacity and other facilities, turning it into a major hub for shipping Australian mineral products like iron ore to Asia. It's safe to say that the new port will just be a waste of Australian taxpayers' money, if it ever gets built.

So an infrastructure project like a new port may not seem that necessary, especially at a time when a renewed flooding just hit northern New South Wales and exposed the lack of basic infrastructure like rain gauge and pumps. In fact, the decision by the Morrison government is only motivated by its selfish political interests, its anti-China mania and its role as an attack dog of the US.

If anything threatens regional security, it is unlikely to be the business operation of an Australian port by a Chinese company that is under increasing scrutiny, and mostly likely to be Australian politicians' reckless and unreasonable provocation against China and Washington's intensifying warmongering in the region.

In recent years, Australia has been submissively serving the US' so-called Indo-Pacific Strategy that aims to suppress China's development, spending more and more manpower and material resources as well as showing increasing hostility toward China and Chinese companies under the name of national security. And aside from the US's empty security promises and the advanced weapons it might have in the future, Canberra's choice of serving US strategy has done little good to its national interests and has only brought mounting risks for not just Australia but also the entire region. If Canberra continues on such a path, it will pay a hefty price.