Politics

China spies attempted to install Labor candidates


Mr Dutton then responded that he had “not made any allegations against the Leader of the Opposition”.

“Mine was on a reflection of the Chinese government, the actions of the Chinese government, and that is the context in which I made the comment and it is perfectly in order,” he said.

The security sources confirmed the Defence Minister was referring to the Chinese plot to interfere with NSW Labor’s preselection process.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on the part of Mr Albanese. The Australian Labor Party has been contacted for contact.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton provided some hints about the plot in Parliament on Thursday.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton provided some hints about the plot in Parliament on Thursday.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Asked about whether he had been briefed on the plot, Mr Albanese said on Friday he had “total confidence in all of my candidates, and the Director-General of ASIO has never raised any concern about any of my candidates”.

“I have spoken to Mr Burgess today and he has re-affirmed that he has not raised concern about any of my candidates – I can’t be clearer about that,” Mr Albanese said.

“National security is too important to engage in game-playing such as what we saw on the floor of the Parliament yesterday, however much the government needs a distraction.”

Because of its intervention, ASIO has no concerns about any Labor candidates in NSW who have been successfully endorsed to run at the federal election.

In his speech on Wednesday night, Mr Burgess said the foreign country that attempted to interfere in Australia’s election process was now on high alert.

“I can confirm that ASIO ­recently detected and disrupted a foreign interference plot in the lead-up to an election in Australia,” he said. “I’m not going to identify the jurisdiction because we are seeing attempts at foreign interference at all levels of government, in all states and territories.”

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The case involved a wealthy individual who covertly sought to advance the interests of the foreign power and undermine Australia’s sovereignty, Mr Burgess said.

The wealthy individual, who Mr Burgess nicknamed “the puppeteer”, hired another individual to enable foreign interference operations and used an offshore bank account to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars for operating expenses.

“The employee hired by the puppeteer began identifying candidates likely to run in the election who either supported the interests of the foreign government or who were assessed as vulnerable to inducements and cultivation,” he said. “The employee used existing relationships with politicians, staffers and journalists to select potential targets, without revealing the secret intent, the foreign connection or the puppeteer’s involvement.”

While the political candidates had no knowledge of the foreign interference plot, Mr Burgess said if ASIO hadn’t acted some of the candidates could have been elected and then encouraged to hire foreign agents or proxies as political staffers.

He said the new parliamentarians could then have been asked for information about the party’s position on defence policy, human rights, foreign investment or trade – with the information then sent to the foreign power.

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