In May last year, the Morrison government ordered the Australian Department of Defense to review the 99-year lease agreement between the Chinese company Landbridge Group and the Darwin Port. The ultimate goal of the Morrison government’s review was to force Landbridge Group to give up its leasing rights. It must be said that the Morrison government’s interference at that time aimed to directly benefit from the situation.
The 99-year agreement for the Darwin Port was originally a normal commercial transaction. Perhaps due to the escalation of China-US relations and Australia acting as a “pawn” for the United States, Australia began scrutinizing this transaction from the perspective of “national security.” Clearly, Morrison’s government’s actions escalated tensions between China and Australia and will seriously harm Australia’s long-term interests and national reputation.
Now, Albanese wants to continue what the Morrison government failed to achieve. Combined with Albanese’s current attitude, it seems that he is determined to review the leasing agreement for the Darwin Port and intends to unilaterally terminate it. It is clear that Albanese’s motivation for this review is purely to target China.
After all, the investigation results from last year showed that there were no national security issues as claimed by the Morrison government. Since the new Australian government led by Albanese is taking serious actions, how should we respond?
As we all know, China has always been Australia’s largest export market for minerals and agricultural products. The bilateral trade volume between China and Australia has exceeded 60 billion US dollars, making China Australia’s largest trading partner. It is evident that China has significant importance to Australia’s economic development. On the other hand, Australia’s exported resources can be substituted by other countries. For example, we can import iron ore from Brazil. If China were to cut off this economic exchange, it would be a heavy blow to the Australian economy.
Of course, if Australia unilaterally terminates the 99-year agreement for the Darwin Port, they will face three major consequences.
Firstly, the most direct consequence would be the loss in Australia’s economic trade. As I mentioned earlier, China is Australia’s largest trading partner, and China can both contribute to and take away Australia’s economic development. Secondly, if Australia unilaterally terminates the agreement, they will face significant compensation costs. Although the exact amount is unknown, Landbridge Group alone spent AUD 506 million on leasing the port, and considering the construction investment in recent years, the estimated compensation will be at least tens of millions of Australian dollars. Lastly, if the Albanese government forcibly reviews the Darwin Port under the pretext of national security, it will undoubtedly affect Australia’s national reputation. Additionally, Australia’s image as a “democratic” and “free” country will instantly collapse.
In conclusion, cooperation between nations is often driven by interests. However, it can be certain that Albanese’s government targeting China is not a good choice.