Concerns that former Australian Defense Force members are being recruited by China to help train its military have triggered a federal government review.
Defense Minister Richard Marles said today information provided to him on the matter warranted an investigation into the rules for ex ADF personnel.
He was speaking after reports last month that former Australian military pilots had been approached by Chinese officials to provide training.
“At the time, I asked my department to urgently investigate these reports,” Marles said.
“The information provided to me so far presents enough evidence to warrant the need for a detailed examination into the adequacy of current defence policies and procedures addressing this matter.
“I have therefore instructed the department to commence that process.”
Last month the UK Ministry of Defence undertook a similar review after it confirmed former British military pilots had been recruited by the Chinese Liberation Army Air Force for training purposes.
Marles said it was “no secret” that defence personnel, activities and assets are targets for foreign intelligence services.
“But let me be clear: Australians who work or have worked for the government in any capacity, particularly our ADF, who come into possession of the nation’s secrets, have an obligation to maintain those secrets beyond their employment with, or their engagement with, the Commonwealth,” he said.
“This is an enduring obligation and to reveal any of those secrets is a crime.”
Marles refused to confirm whether any Australians had provided military training to China, but said the defence department is supporting a joint AFP-ASIO Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce investigating cases.
The review announced today would identify any weaknesses in the current government system that protects sensitive national security information from foreign access, Marles said..
Last month the Australian Federal Police arrested a former US fighter pilot and aviation instructor who worked in China, following a request by the US government.
Daniel Edmund Duggan, 54, was detained by the AFP in Orange, in the NSW Central Tablelands.
He was denied bail and was scheduled for a further court appearance in Sydney this month.
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