Shadow Minister for Home Affairs James Paterson warned that the risk of a Chinese spy undermining Australia’s democracy processes is “very high.”
The report said the man had links with senior Conservative MPs, he had high-level security clearance, and had helped shape the UK’s China policy.
Following the report, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told broadcasters at the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi that he had raised “a range of different concerns” with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, including his “very strong concerns about any interference in [the UK’s] parliamentary democracy, which is obviously unacceptable.”
Risk of Similar Case in Australia ‘Very High’: Senator
Senator Paterson warned that similar things could happen in the Australian Parliament.
“Unfortunately, the risk of this happening in Australia is very high because the vast majority of staff who work in this building here in Parliament House are not security vetted or cleared in any way,” he told media in Canberra on Sept. 11.
“If you work for a government backbencher, anyone in opposition, including shadow ministers, then you are not required and you’re not able to be security vetted. Only ministerial staff are security vetted.”
The opposition home affairs spokesman called for a change.
“I think it’s time that that changed, at the very least for MPs who work on sensitive committees like the Intelligence and Security Committee or the new statutory defence committee which is going to oversee AUKUS,” he said.
“We know that ASIO [Australian Security Intelligence Organisation] assesses this to be our number one security risk and we can’t afford to be complacent about this, or leave MPs to fend for themselves when they are hiring staff.”
CCP Spies Can Be Non-Chinese Heritage
Senator Paterson further said the UK case is a “wake-up call” that not only people who are of Chinese heritage or ethnicity can be potential spies.
“Every time myself or my colleagues put up a job advertisement on the Internet seeking a researcher, you can bet there’s a foreign intelligence agency looking at that job, wondering how they can place someone in that office and close to that MP,” he said.
“We know, particularly in the context of AUKUS, that the secrets and other sensitive information that MPs will be privy to are of very high demand to foreign intelligence agencies, and they’ll be absolutely trying to get whatever they can out of us.”
“I encourage all my parliamentary colleagues to be alert for the signs of unusual or suspicious behaviour from the staff or any other close associates, people who ask them persistent questions, unusual questions, questions about their work that isn’t routine or normal.”
China Expert Says to Remind Staff of Obligations
However, a China expert believes that difficulties remain with more security vetting.
“The challenge with