Related ministers and contacts
The Hon Richard Marles MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Defence
9 November 2022
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Last month, there were reports that China had approached former Australian Defence Personnel to provide training to Chinese. In the wake of that, I asked the Department of Defence to investigate this matter. In the information that has now been provided to me by Defence, there are enough concerns in my mind that I have asked Defence to engage in a detailed examination about the policies and procedures that apply to our former Defence personnel, and particularly those who come into possession of our nation's secrets. I want to make this point; for those who do come into possession of our nation's secrets, either through service in the Australian Defence Force or indeed service in any other part of the Commonwealth, there is an enduring obligation to maintain those secrets for as long as they are secrets, which persists well after their engagement with the Commonwealth, and to breach that obligation is a very serious crime. And that is clear and unambiguous. Having said that, it's really important that we have the most robust framework possible that is in place to protect Australia's information and protect our secrets. And so, as Defence undertakes this examination, which it is doing right now, if there are any weaknesses in the policies and procedures that do currently apply in respect of our former Defence personnel, then the Albanese Labor Government is absolutely committed to fixing those weaknesses so as to keep Australia safe.
JOURNALIST: Have you confirmed that any Australians have actually provided this training to China? And is there going to be an approach to the Chinese government to say this is not acceptable?
MARLES: You’ll forgive me that I'm not going to answer that question. But Defence is supporting the Joint AFP-ASIO Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce, which is currently investigating a number of cases.
JOURNALIST: How many cases, can you clarify how many cases? Is this related to a specific incident that kicked us off? And is this for any relation to that pilot facing extradition?
MARLES: Again, I'm not going to answer that question for obvious reasons, but the task force that I've described is investigating a number of cases. What we are focused on right now is making sure that we do examine the policies and the procedures that are currently in place in respect of our former Defence personnel to make sure they are adequate. And if they are not, and if there are weaknesses in that system, then we are absolutely committed to fixing them.