Around here there is a whole lot of huffing and puffing about the Defence Minister who is in hot water because he rents his residence from a powerful and influential Chinese national – a businesswoman who once had lots of hands on business activities in Australia, less so now. Not divulging this contact is the source of some of the heat the Minister is now receiving though a little of that is being dissipated by the debate about the rights and wrongs of the intelligence and security community investigating that relationship. It should not leave me feeling so but I am always surprised at how naive our populace is about these things. To help get some perspective on this little brouhaha flip the scenario.
Imagine if you will that the Minister for the Ministry of National Defence of the People’s Republic of China (who happens to be General Liang, pictured here) decides to rent from an Australian “friend” in Beijing. It is a friendship that can be shown to go back for many years (and on the basis of that argument is deemed to be innocuous!). That Australian friend is able to come and go as they pretty much please and in fact spends a whole lot of time looking after his/her business interests in Australia. As the General has risen through the ranks he has come to Australia at various times to swim on the Gold Coast, to fish at the Top End and perhaps roll some dice at Crown Casino. If you think for a moment that our own security and intelligence folk would not be interested in, and ignore the possibility to cultivate a relationship with the General you are living in fantasy land.
It would be perfectly reasonable to expect that our Defence Minister has been carefully cultivated ( a couple of paid trips to China which he failed to declare is heading towards compelling evidence of such) and this relationship would be an important one for Beijing, if only one that is maintained against a “what if”scenario. And of course it may not be one of which he is really aware. (If he is then he should be locked up). It’s the way these relationships are developed by these hidden parts of government, and by the diplomatic world, and has been so for centuries. Well might the security folk in Canberra be worried about what our Minister has been up to. At the very least they should be waking him and us up to any gross or lingering naivete about these things. After all, there are no nice guys out there playing these sorts of games.