‘Quite shocked’: Defence give secrets to China
Defence has signed over the storage of its secrets to a Chinese-owned company in defiance of apparent orders from the federal government that the millions of sensitive real-time files be urgently moved out.
For years, data storage firm Global Switch has been tasked with storing the nation's military secrets at facilities in Ultimo in inner Sydney but that was to change when in 2016 the London-based parent company Aldersgate Investments sold a 49 per cent stake to a Chinese data tech consortium.
The change was to come when the contract ended in October last year but in a new contract tendered to federal parliament today it has now been revealed it was instead extended to September 2025.
The quiet re-signing came at a cost of $53.5 million, about $250,000 over the original quote.
This was despite the then treasurer now Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2017 stating that Defence would shift all of its data to an Australian-owned hub over three years, by last year.
A notice of motion tabled with parliament, to be debated next Monday, by Queensland MP Bob Katter and former Army officer and independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie has called on the government to immediately terminate all data storage contracts held with foreign-owned entities including China, US and UK.
"What is the point of having a defence system when a military 100 times larger than ours knows where all your defence assets are?" Mr Katter asked today.
"Do you know where our F-35 (fighter jets) are because I don't but they do.
"I am quite shocked but not surprised that the information of the Australian armed forces is available to a Chinese company called Global Switch. Global Switch is inside the information systems of the defence forces of Australia despite being ordered out by the man who is now prime minister."
Defence has confirmed it had extended its property lease of the data storage but said a formal response to questions about the contract and national sovereign security were still being drafted.
It is understood defence is not the only agency to store its sensitive documents and online gateway access to files with Global Switch with the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission also having their files there, although are advanced in the process of moving them out.
Global Switch has previously said its files and customers were held at the highest security levels with shareholders restricted from physical access to its centres.
Aldersgate Investments accepted $4 billion in cash to sell its stake to Chinese consortium Elegant Jubilee, brought together by a China-owned data storage network, in a move which caused concerns at the time in the British parliament.
The Australian government also voiced concerns then in 2017 and a Foreign Investment Review Board looked to seek assurances a condition of the contract would be the Australian operations would remain 100 per cent owned and operated by Aldersgate.
Originally published as 'Quite shocked': Defence give secrets to China