A Nationals senator has called on Australian mining companies to put “patriotism over profits” and invest in the nation’s defence capabilities.
Matt Canavan spoke at the Brisbane Mining Club on Thursday and urged the industry to help “restore our industrial strength and ability to fight any coming conflict”.
He claimed there was a risk China could trigger a conflict that could impact Australia and said corporations could help prepare the country by investing in manufacturing.
“All Australian companies have benefited from the generosity of the Australian government over the past year,” he said.
“I don’t expect companies to pay back JobKeeper directly, but indirectly there is a moral obligation for Australian companies to be part of a ‘NationKeeper’ program that sees them invest in industries that can strengthen Australia’s defence capabilities.”
Mr Canavan, who frequently downplays dangers of climate change, said a conflict involving China would be a greater danger and businesses need a “China plan”.
“The risks and consequences of China triggering a conflict in our region are much greater than any impact of climate change, especially to those Australian businesses heavily reliant on iron ore for profits,” he said, according to remarks handed out by his press office.
He also proposed superannuation funds band together and “buy back the Darwin, Newcastle and Melbourne ports from Chinese investors”.
His comments come in the context of a frosty relationship between Australia and China.
Both sides have recently acknowledged the tension, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying that while he wants a “positive relationship” with Beijing, it is more important for Australia to stick with its values.
China’s ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, told reporters in Canberra earlier this month that he was “disappointed” in “allegations” the Australian government had made about China’s treatment of Uighur people.
The commonwealth government last week vetoed an agreement the Victorian state government had made with Beijing.