Daru fishery: $200m China buy off Australian coast stokes fears

There are grave concerns over China’s true intentions in a plan to build a $204m mega ‘fishing’ facility just 200km away from mainland Australia.

There are grave concerns over China’s true intentions in a plan to build a $204m fishery complex in an area where there is no commercial fishing just 200km away from mainland Australia.

The Fujian Zhonghong Fishery Company, controlled by the Chinese government, has just signed a deal will see the building of a complex at Daru in Papua New Guinea — sparking fears China has secret plans to turn it into a naval base on Australia’s doorstep.

Former PNG foreign ministry Adviser Jeffrey Wall said the seas around Daru are not known to have commercial fishery resources, leading him to ask why China has spent $200m on a facility there.

He said Daru, which is around 200km from the Australian mainland but much closer to the islands of the Torres Strait that are within our northern border, is “strategically as close to Australia as you can get”.

Given the rising tensions between Australia and China in recent months, he said there is cause of concern.

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Daru lies just 200km away from mainland Australia.

Daru lies just 200km away from mainland Australia.

“I’m assured by people with a reasonable knowledge of PNG’s fisheries that there are no commercial fishing grounds close to Daru,” Mr Wall wrote on the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s (ASPI) website.

“So why plan to spend $200 million on a fish-processing plant in an area not known to have commercial fishery resources?”

“The fact that the plant will lie just a few kilometres from Australian island communities is a likely reason. It’s hardly comfortable, and certainly not in Australia’s strategic interest, to have a major Chinese government resource exploration project right on our northern doorstep.”

Federal member for the north Queensland seat of Leichhardt, Warren Entsch — whose electorate includes the Torres Strait Islands just 40km from Daru — is one of the only politicians in Australia to speak out on the plans.

He told The Daily Telegraph that fishing on Daru is well managed and the sole source of food and income for 13 villages.

“China doesn’t give a stuff about sustainability,” he said. “I worry that it is less about fishing and more about other intentions.”

Those intentions were alluded to by Mr Wall who told the ABC there is there is potential for conflict in the Torres Strait.

“In my view, what they (China) are going to do, first of all, is build a very large wharf,” he said.

“So when you build a very large wharf, what do you build? Somewhere where naval vessels can land.”

He said Australia’s relationship with PNG is at a “critical phase” as China and the Morrison government tussle for influence over the region amid a trade stand-off.

Daru has no known commercial fishing resources. Picture: kambetipawi/Instagram

Daru has no known commercial fishing resources.

In his ASPI commentary he said Australia has spent a considerable sum on aid programs in health care, education and other services in Fly River Province, including in Daru, but it has fallen short when it comes to economic development that lifts living standards and provides opportunities for villagers.

Now China has swooped in with this $200m deal as part of its Belt and Road Initiative to build infrastructure and win allies around the world.

It comes amid rising trade tension between Australia and China.

In recent months, embargoes and tariffs have been slapped on Australian wine, wood, barley, meat and lobster as relations between the nations hit an all-time low.

Now, there are mounting concerns iron ore could become the next battleground especially as the price of the steel making commodity keeps surging.

NED-2900-China's fishing activity - 0

Scott Morrison said Beijing had yet to confirm state media reports that Australia’s multibillion-dollar coal exports are now subject to an informal ban.

Nationalist state-run tabloid the Global Times said Sunday that Chinese power plants are being steered toward buying their coal domestically, as well as from countries other than Australia.

“If that were the case, then that would obviously be in breach of WTO rules,” Mr Morrison said. “It would be obviously in breach of our own free-trade agreement and so we would hope that is certainly not the case.”

“We are seeking clarification on this,” Mr Morrison said, although ministerial-level contacts between the two countries are said to be non-existent.

China’s foreign ministry on Tuesday did not confirm or deny the ban, and instead accused Australian politicians of “playing the victim to continuously insinuate accusations against China.”

With AFP

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