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Liberal senator James Paterson raises alarm on divulging classified information in public about China


“I’m not being critical of either Kimberley Kitching or Peter Dutton. They are individual members of Parliament who are exercising their own judgment and there’s a very good reason why the Parliament has privilege and we can speak freely in the Parliament.”

Senator Paterson also said he wouldn’t apologise for attacking Mr Richardson, one of the most experienced former public servants in Australian history, but conceded he could have slightly changed his wording.

Former ASIO and DFAT boss Dennis Richardson.

Former ASIO and DFAT boss Dennis Richardson.Credit:Louie Douvis

The Liberal senator on Thursday accused Mr Richardson of taking “leave from DFAT to negotiate on behalf of the Canberra Raiders a lucrative sponsorship agreement from [Chinese telco] Huawei for the Canberra Raiders. He also criticised him for saying in 2018 that Huawei could be allowed into Australia’s 5G network with mitigations measures before the then-Turnbull government made the decision to ban the Chinese telco from the next-generation network.

“Dennis and I spoke on Friday. He told me that in 2011, when he took leave from DFAT as secretary, it wasn’t to negotiate with Huawei, it was just to make an initial pitch to Huawei on behalf of thee Canberra Raiders,” Senator Paterson said. “I said that he ‘negotiated’. I should have said that he ‘pitched’. But otherwise, I think it was very accurate references for information on the public record.”

Mr Richardson told this masthead on Sunday: “The bottom line is very simple: I was on the secretary’s committee on national security which recommended against Huawei’s involvement in 4G.

“I was not in government at the time the 5G decision was taken, but I have never been critical of that decision. Any suggestion to the contrary is dishonest and inconsistent with the facts.”

Pressed on the Coalition’s hyped-up rhetoric this week, Senator Paterson said his party was right to question Mr Albanese’s “small target” strategy in trying to “sneak into government”.

“And in a liberal democracy, we are absolutely entitled to examine the record and make competing claims about what we think they’ll do in office. It’s up to them to make the high bar that we’re setting for bipartisanship. If they’re not comfortable meeting that standard. Well, then they can justify that to the Australian people.”

Mr Dutton said on Sunday he had the “utmost respect” for both Mr Burgess and Mr Richardson, but “I disagree with the conclusions they’ve drawn”.

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“I think there is a big difference between the Coalition and Labor – I think the public recognise that, the public understands it,” Mr Dutton told Sky News.

Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland said the Opposition was not pursing a “small-target” strategy, pointing towards its release of a comprehensive suite of policies to address climate change.

“This government is doing anything it can… in order to get airtime,” she said.

“Anthony Albanese is someone who would very much government from the centre, he is someone who is a patriot, and is someone who is deeply concerned with the security of this country.”

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