NEWS

Ex-Australian PM stays mum on navy spy case

07/25/2012 09:47 EDT | Updated 09/24/2012 05:12 EDT
While Canadian and Australian government officials reportedly discussed last January the case of a Canadian naval intelligence officer accused of spying, today the lips of Australia's former prime minister Kevin Rudd remained sealed.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Tuesday that the Canadian government briefed Louise Hand, Australia's High Commissioner to Canada, on the case of Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle shortly after his arrest on Jan. 14.

In an interview on CBC-TV's Power & Politics, Rudd was asked for comment on Australia's reaction to the alleged breach but offered no new information.

"I've been a prime minister, I've been a foreign minister, and all of us adhere to basic protocols here which is on any intelligence matters, we just don't comment," Rudd told guest host Hannah Thibedeau.

"Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper, I believe, has made a similar statement. I believe Prime Minister [Julia] Gillard in Australia has done the same," said Rudd.

He served as Australia's prime minister from 2007 to 2010, and was foreign minister at the time of Delisle's arrest. He remained in that position until February 2012.

Growing Chinese foreign investment

During his stop in Ottawa, the current Australian MP was asked for his take on a Chinese state-owned bid for Calgary's-based Nexen Inc., a global energy company.

"We are China's single largest destination of foreign investment, overwhelmingly in the resources sector," said Rudd.

"I know CNOOC, it's a good company, we have dealt with them before in Australia, but frankly on the intrinsics of your proposed deal, that's something for your own regulatory authorities to look at very closely."

Canadian Industry Minister Christian Paradis is currently reviewing an application from the China National Offshore Oil Company – also known as CNOOC Ltd. – before deciding whether or not to green light the $15.1-billion US transaction.

CNOOC's proposed all-cash takeover of oil and gas producer Nexen was a friendly bid, offering shareholders a 60-per-cent premium on their holdings.

Rudd said Australia has maintained a "pretty opened foreign investment environment for a long time."

When asked whether Canadians ought to be concerned about China's growing control over their natural resources, Rudd said it was a question Australians have had to grapple with.

He said Australia has "historically welcomed large investments from foreign investors ... if they are opening up 'greenfields' investments. That is, that they are beginning new projects and creating economic activity where there otherwise would not be."

The deal here faces a review by both Paradis, who will have to determine if the transaction is of net benefit to Canada, as well as the federal Competition Bureau.

The Chinese company has made several other investments in Canadian companies over the past seven years, including buying stakes in MEG Energy Inc. and a 60-per-cent investment in Northern Cross (Yukon) Ltd.

Paradis has warned Canadians not to jump to any conclusions about which way the decision will go.

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