22 Dec Paterson in line for top security job
Ben Packham – The Australian – 22 December 2020
Victorian Liberal senator James Paterson has emerged as the frontrunner to replace Andrew Hastie as chairman of the parliament’s powerful intelligence and security committee.
Senator Paterson is understood to have the support of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Foreign Minister Marise Payne, and is being strongly backed by Mr Hastie, who will be sworn in as Assistant Defence Minister on Tuesday.
Scott Morrison is expected to draw on the advice of key ministers and intelligence agency heads when he makes the appointment, which is critical to the passage of national security legislation.
Senator Paterson has been a leading voice in the parliament on the strategic challenges posed by China under Xi Jinping’s leadership, which is likely to place him in good stead with intelligence and security agencies, which work closely with the committee.
NSW Liberal MP Julian Leeser, is also seen as a possible candidate for the role. Senator Paterson and Mr Hastie were banned by the Chinese Communist Party from entering the country on a study tour late last year.
The colleagues are also both members of the parliament’s informal “Wolverine” group that has spoken out strongly on CCP interference in Australia’s institutions.
Recently, he called for Chinese state media to be denied unrestricted access to the federal parliament as journalists, warning there is a risk they could be involved in espionage activities.
Senator Paterson has spoken out in favour of Australia’s ban on high-risk Chinese telcos from being involved in Australia’s 5G network, and those of other Five Eyes nations, arguing countries must preserve their “digital sovereignty”.
He also has a strong record of speaking out on human rights issues, including the treatment of Uighurs and Hong Kong protesters by the CCP.
The deputy chair of the committee, Labor’s Anthony Byrne, paid tribute to Mr Hastie, who he worked with for nearly five years on the parliamentary committee.
“He conducted himself with great professionalism, intelligence and determination during his time as chair,” Mr Byrne said.
“He should be very proud of the legislation that he guided through the committee during that time including the foreign interference and espionage legislation which was one of the most important pieces of national security legislation ever passed in our parliament.