$6 million has been granted by the Federal Government to a Chinese owned gas producer that is said to have strong links the Asian nations’ Communist Party. Under the Government’s GAP (Gas Acceleration Program) scheme that was established to secure and develop gas supplies, Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan revealed grants would be given to the Westside Corporation and another 3 gas firms.
However, a specialist on government grants has said that under this agreement this is no mechanism to stop Westside from sending the gas overseas and not sharing any domestically.
Westside is a subsidiary of the Landbridge Group which is a Chinese company that hold a controversial lease on Darwin’s port for 99 years which was a deal that upset the then Obama administration back in 2015.
The chairman and founder of Landbridge, Ye Cheng, is a Chinese billionaire and is a member of the CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference). In a Senate hearing in 2015, Mike Hughes, director of Landbridge said that Mr Cheng was not a member of the Chinese Communist Party.
Mr Hughes only said that Mr Cheng was a member of the CPPCC which he said was an “advisory body” for the Chinese parliament. He said he believed there were over 2000 delegates.
A spokesperson for Westside reaffirmed that Landbridge was a “private Chinese company” and that it was “not state-owned”. Despite this Peter Jennings, director of ASPI (Australian Strategic Policy Institute) says that Landbridge actually has very close ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Mr Jennings said that Landbridge should be understood as a “arm of the Chinese Government” that makes foreign investments under a non-communist guise. It is certainly true that the human rights and corruption concerns rife within the Chinse Government make doing business with them not look very good.
He went on to say that Landbridge was given access to generous loans with Chinese banks because it was a “favoured son” of the Communist Party. He said that “there is reach back” between Landbridge and the Chinese government as well as their intelligence agencies.
Mr Jennings reaffirmed that it was dangerous to do business with these kinds of entities. Despite this, Minister Canavan has doubled down saying that Westside was vetted and was eligible for the grant.
Andrew Robb, Australia’s former trade minister, left Parliament in 2016 to take a job at Landbridge as an economic consultant. This prompted him to criticise foreign interference laws that were enacted by Malcolm Turnbull late last year.