China’s hold over Australia has long been documented in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic. Beijing’s Pandora box of misdeeds opened earlier in February when it was reported that China had stolen billions of worth medical equipment from Sydney and several other states. Since then, the relations between the two countries have touched a historical new low as threats of trade wars have continuously been perpetuated by Beijing.
Now another sector has emerged in Australia where China had steadily infected the system from inside.
It has been brought to light that Senator Rex Patrick is pushing the Scott Morrison government to conduct a thorough review of Chinese state involvement in Australia’s electricity grid and consider the removal of some equipment amid fears of remote sabotage. Some experts have cast aspersions that the imported Chinese transformers could put the power grid under threat of attack.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that China has overtaken Vietnam as the main supplier of transformers for the Australian electricity network in recent years.
According to a report in Sydney Morning Herald, in 2018-19, Chinese companies supplied 29 of the 70 transformers imported by Australia. Compare this to the 2011-12 data and you’ll notice that China had a miniscule share of pie back then when it only supplied 8 of the 135 transformers imported into Australia whereas Vietnam supplied 33.
The rise in China-sourced transformers has occurred since Beijing’s State Grid Corporation bought stakes in electrical transmission network companies SP Ausnet and ElectraNet, as well Melbourne-based retailer Jemena, in 2013. Jemena’s executive team features a former deputy mayor of a Chinese city who most certainly would have been connected to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as holding such official positions in China requires membership of the CCP.
Senator Patrick mentioned pointed out this particular instance and iterated that proper attention should be paid to the State Grid Corporation representatives on the boards and in the executive ranks of its Australian electricity companies.
Of the 29 transformers supplied to Australia in 2018-19, 16 were for use in Victoria. It is imperative to note that the Victorian Government is taking a diametrically opposite stance from that of Morrison’s party in center and pushing for the controversial Belts and Roads Initiative in the region.
As relations between Australia and China deteriorate, Premier Daniel Andrews has insisted on pushing ahead with the controversial Belt and Road initiative.https://t.co/o2YhnUlqRw
— Herald Sun (@theheraldsun) May 27, 2020
Victoria’s BRI project that is being increasingly described within Australia as a strategic blunder, and rightly so. The project has major foreign policy repercussions for Canberra.
Even the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said that the United States wouldn’t hesitate to “disconnect” from Australia if Victoria’s BRI project threatens its telecom security.
That being said, the Kangaroos’ and their increasing reliance on Chinese machinery—especially the transformers has raised the fear index about Australia’s electricity grid’s vulnerability—which is prone to foreign interference.
Cyber-security expert Paul Dabrowa said it was possible for a foreign government to badly damage Australia’s electricity grid within two minutes. “It could take months to repair the damage … there’s open-source material about experiments that have proven this is possible,” he said.
The Western security agencies and in particular America fears that foreign-built transformers could have malicious electrical components surreptitiously installed that could potentially allow another country to interrupt power supply on a whim.
In May, US President Donald Trump issued an executive order to place tight restrictions on the use of foreign-sourced equipment in the electricity grid because of rising fears about the possibility of remote attacks and sabotage.
As Senator Patrick’s demands started appearing in media channels, the CCP mouthpiece Global Times also published an article and meekly insinuated that if Australia went down the same path as the US, then it wouldn’t augur well for its citizens.
“By following the US, Australia is also risking the interests of ordinary households, as China’s expertise in electricity provision and grid system upgrades can help reduce their high running costs” read the article.
This veiled threat should indeed be taken seriously if the real-life example of the Philippines is anything to go by. According to news reports, Philippines’ power grid is under the full control of the Chinese government and could be shut off in time of conflict.
“Our national security is completely compromised due to the control and proprietary access given by the local consortium partner to the Chinese government,” an internal report prepared by the lawmakers of the country had warned last year.
Just like Rex Patrick, Philippines senator Sherwin Gatchalian last year had sent the warning bells ringing when he said, “With a single switch, no electricity would be transmitted to any of our homes, our businesses, (or) any of our military facilities,”
Recently reported by TFI, it had also emerged that China had got itself a major chunk of Australia’s water bodies, which in turn was starving the Australian farmers as the monopoly over the water bodies meant that water was being sold to the farmers at exorbitantly high prices.
The CCP led Chinese authoritarian regime now owns 756GL of water after a three percent boost of its share in 2018-19 to be well ahead of previous joint leader the US (713GL), followed by the UK (394GL). The lion-share of water that China owns, is in Australia’s largest river system viz. Murray Darling Basin. Almost a third of surface water in the basin is foreign-owned and China owns a worryingly 10.8 percent of it.
With China gaining unparalleled control of Australia’s water and electricity, the Xi Jinping regime has the required ammo to cripple the Aussies.
So far there hasn’t been any electricity grid attack in humankind history but it is theoretically possible and given the relations between Canberra and Beijing, the Scott Morrison cannot take any half-chances. The Foreign Investment Review Board which had strengthened its regulations in the wake of the Chinese threat after the pandemic needs to tighten the screws around the National electricity Grid deals too.
Otherwise, if such tenders are given unchecked to the Chinese, the Aussies will be forced to prostrate in front of Xi Jinping regime in times of conflict. Losing electricity and losing water in today’s modern globalized world can cut Australia off from the world.
From stealing of medical equipment to imposing tarrifs on Barley to gaining control over Australia’s water bodies to monopolising the electricity grid–China has done it all to turn Australia upside down.
Consequently, Scott Morrison needs to pay heed to Senator Patrick’s advice and make the necessary amends.