SA Government denies Chinese company Landbridge has interest in Flinders Ports
19th Jan 2018
Discussions of foreign investment in South Australia’s ports have been denied by the State Government after it was revealed the former trade minister met with Chinese company Landbridge last year.
- Former SA trade minister met with Chinese company Landbridge in September
- Government said discussions were about investment in wine, not ports
- Liberals, SA Best against potential plans of Chinese investment in SA ports
Landbridge took control of the Darwin Port in 2015 in a move that was criticised by then US President Barack Obama.
Deputy Opposition Leader Vickie Chapman said former trade and investment minister Martin Hamilton-Smith and SA Government bureaucrats met with senior managers of Landbridge last September.
She said the government needed to explain what happened at the meeting.
“We need to have it cleared up — defence industries is one of the industries for recovery for our state,” she said.
“We cannot have it put at risk. The only people who can clear this up and promise to South Australia that they will not enter into an arrangement to put this at risk is the government and I expect Weatherill to do it today.”
But in a statement the government said it had not been presented with any proposal for Chinese investment in any of South Australia’s ports.
Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said the ports are privately owned by Flinders Ports and any sale would have to be approved by the Federal Government.
“If they [Flinders Port] want to try and sell them to a Chinese company the Commonwealth Government can use [Foreign Investment Review Board],” he said.
“I don’t think we would be supportive of a sale to Landbridge.”
Landbridge has interest in wine
Mr Hamilton-Smith admitted he met with Landbridge, but said it was to discuss investment in wine and food industries.
“Landbridge has never raised with me, or to my knowledge anyone in government, any strong interest in making an investment in Flinders Ports,” he said.
“Flinders Ports seem to know nothing about it [and is] raising questions about whether the story is fabricated.
“Flinders Ports and Landbridge both told me they have no interest.”
But in 2015, Mr Hamilton-Smith released a statement about a landmark agreement being signed during a Shandong delegation visit to South Australia, in which he admitted there was interest by Landbridge in port infrastructure.
“Significant investors like the Shandong Landbridge Group will be investigating opportunities in port infrastructure and wine,” Mr Hamilton-Smith said at the time.
Landbridge is owned by businessman Ye Cheng who in October purchased South Australia winery Rymill Coonawarra.
SA Best leader Nick Xenophon was wary of any potential deal being made between Flinders Ports and Landbridge given the company’s links to the Chinese government.
“These ports are critical to the state’s economic wellbeing,” Mr Xenophon said.
“Flinders Ports should never have been privatised by the Liberals 17 years ago and the State Government has to be upfront about what discussions they’ve had with the Chinese company, with close links to the Chinese government.”