Chinese infiltration of consulate a ‘worry’, says MPs

Shocking allegations of Chinese Communist Party members infiltrating Western embassies, including Australia's, must be explained, Labor MP Peter Khalil says.

An investigation by The Australian has revealed at least 10 consulates in Shanghai have CCP members employed as staff.

It follows the leaking of official membership records containing information about 1.95 million members.

Former diplomat and Liberal MP Dave Sharma said Australia did need "to worry" about the CCP working in big offices.

"Even people that aren't (CCP members) are still subject to the pressure and suasion of Chinese state authorities to do their bidding," Mr Sharma said.

"I think that's an unusual feature of their political system and one that's quite foreign to us."

Dave Sharma was the Australian ambassador to Israel between 2013 and2017. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Dave Sharma was the Australian ambassador to Israel between 2013 and2017. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

But Labor backbencher Peter Khalil said it was "absolutely necessary" to ensure there were no interferences.

"I would expect that the government we're working on this 24/7," Mr Khalil said.

"We have some breaches … and there are some implications and that needs to be explained."

Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was aware of the risks in embassies and consulates in countries where there was a track record of interference.

He said local staff employed in embassies and consulates were often physically segregated from secure areas and did not have access to all of the information being received and dealt with by the embassy.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was used to operating within different overseas contexts.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was used to operating within different overseas contexts.

"DFAT has a very rigorous process before it engages locally engaged staff," Mr Zimmerman said.

"I'm sure it's reviewing these allegations that have been printed today to see whether there's any lessons that need to be learned from it."

A DFAT spokesman said its recruitment, security and risk-management processes were robust.

"There is a clear distinction in the roles, responsibilities and work of Australians who are posted and locally engaged staff at our embassies and high commissions," its statement read.

"We value the contributions of our locally engaged staff members."

Originally published as Chinese infiltration of consulate a 'worry'



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