BECAUSE Australia has long underfunded its Antarctic activities, it is failing to notice and act on a secretive Chinese military build-up and minerals exploration on the frozen continent, according to a defence think tank.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute says Australia's leadership role there is being eroded and China is building a case for a territorial claim.
The report says three of China's four Antarctic bases and two of its field camps are in the Australian Antarctic Territory that covers 42% of the continent.
China is seeking access to minerals, fishing, tourism and water.
The report by Anne-Marie Brady said, "The calculation that the Australian government has long made in short-changing Antarctic affairs in order to boost activities up north is looking increasingly risky.”
China has become a major actor in both polar regions as a result of a huge budget increase in the past decade. It is operating two icebreakers in down south with a third under construction.