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30 March 2021

South Australian Senator Rex Patrick today called on the Australian Government to impose a diplomatic price on China’s repeated cyber attacks by expelling Chinese diplomatic and consular staff each time there is a cyber attack that can be attributed to the Chinese state or its proxies.

“Although the Australian Government is not prepared to publicly attribute responsibility for the cyber attacks and intrusions that have been directed at Federal and State government agencies, universities, and businesses, there is little doubt that the Chinese state is the primary source of these hostile actions.”

“So far China has waged this cyber campaign without any effective response from the Australian Government – even when the Australian Parliament’s computer systems were hacked.”

“This state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue. There must be consequences.”

“While the Australian Signals Directorate has significant offensive cyber capabilities, in the first instance it would be worthwhile to send a clear diplomatic response by expelling Chinese diplomats and consular officials each time there is a cyber attack that can be attributed to the Chinese state or its proxies.”

“Each time there is such an attack, the Department of Foreign Affairs should expel at least one diplomat from China’s Canberra Embassy and at least one consular officer from each of China’s consulates in Australia’s state capitals.”

“In the event that China keeps up its cyber attacks, such a policy would at least quickly reduce China’s bloated diplomatic and consular presence, larger than that of any other country, which serves as cover for espionage and political interference operations in Australia.”

“In the case of China’s Adelaide Consulate General, a fortified compound to be opened by South Australian Premier Steven Marshall, a significant reduction of the eleven consular staff would help protect our vital naval shipbuilding projects and other defence industry facilities from Chinese espionage. Australia’s national security should always come first.”