China hawk gets chair

China hawk gets chair

Ellen Whinnett – The Daily Telegraph – Friday 05 February 2021

Liberal Senator James Paterson has been elected chairman of the powerful Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

The bipartisan committee met on Thursday afternoon to elect Senator Paterson as replacement for Andrew Hastie, the former SAS captain who chaired it for four years before being promoted to assistant defence minister in a Cabinet reshuffle last year.

A Victorian, Senator Paterson is a known China hawk and member of the “Wolverine’’ group of politicians openly challenging Chinese Community Party influence in Australia. Like Mr Hastie, he was denied a visa to visit China after upsetting the political leadership in Beijing.

He will remain co-chair with Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.

Senator Paterson said he was honoured to have been elected to chair the committee and he looked forward to working with the “dedicated men and women of our intelligence community who work so hard to protect Australia and our citizens.’’

The committee will this year conduct an inquiry into extremist movements and radicalism in Australia and conduct several reviews of national security legislation including into the powers of the AFP and the legislation restricting the movements of high-risk terrorist offenders.

It will also examine the national security risks affecting Australia’s higher education and research sector – an inquiry designed to flush out adverse influence by the Chinese government and its proxies.

“We must ensure that violent extremism does not take hold in Australia and that our universities have robust policies in place to protect their researchers and students from foreign coercion and influence,’’ Senator Paterson said.

In his new role he will have to forge a close working relationship with the veteran deputy chair of the committee, Labor MP Anthony Byrne, who has developed strong relationships with the national security apparatus in Canberra.

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