Former Labor immigration minister Nick Bolkus is involved in a lobbying effort by Chinese mining interests to access a secretive Defence Department site where Australia and its allies conduct highly-sensitive military research.
Corporate documents show Mr Bolkus, who served as immigration minister in Paul Keating’s government between 1993 and 1996, became a director of the Australian arm of Chinese steelmaker JiuJiang in March last year.
Mr Bolkus’ role as a director of JiuJiang Mining Australia reflects a now-common approach by Chinese companies of bringing well-connected former politicians on board to help build relationships with federal and state governments in Australia.
The JiuJiang group is providing up to $800 million in financial backing to help Australian-registered CU River Mining extract millions of tonnes of iron ore from a mine on the Woomera Prohibited Area in central Australia, where the United States and Australia test state-of-the art weapon systems.
Though the JiuJiang group claims to be privately owned, its chairman Zhao Yujiang is a prominent Hebei provincial member of the Chinese Communist Party, a deputy to China’s 12th National People’s Congress, and has travelled abroad as part of Chinese government delegations.
In addition, the JiuJiang group’s steel mills in Hebei province were integrated with those operated by state-owned enterprises in 2010. This has caused the JiuJiang group to be described by senior Chinese Government ministers as a “daughter company” to larger steel making state-owned enterprises.
It is unclear whether JiuJiang’s involvement with Chinese state-owned-enterprises would require Mr Bolkus, as a former cabinet minister, to declare his links to JiuJiang under the Attorney General’s department’s new foreign interests register. He has not registered to date.
A spokeswoman for the department said written notifications had been sent to a wide range of people making them aware of their potential obligation to register, and that there were “additional obligations for former Cabinet Ministers and recent designated position holders”.