CANBERRA, 21 FEBRUARY 2022 (SBS) — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has condemned as an act of intimidation the lasering of an Australian military aircraft by a Chinese warship.
The Australian Defence Department says the lives of ADF personnel could have been in danger from such actions, calling it unprofessional and unsafe military conduct.
In a statement released on Saturday, the department said that on Thursday 17 February, the P-8A Poseidon detected a laser coming from a People’s Liberation Army Navy vessel illuminating the aircraft while in flight over Australia’s northern approaches.
“I can see it in no other way than an act of intimidation,” the prime minister told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.
“I thought it was a reckless and irresponsible act.”
He said it was unprovoked and unwarranted, and the issue is being raised directly through diplomatic and defence channels.
Labour leader Anthony Albanese described it as an “outrageous act of aggression”.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton said using a military grade laser can result in the blindness of the crew, and the damage of equipment.
He said it was most important to “shine a light on these behaviours”.
“The Chinese government is hoping no one talks about these aggressive and appalling acts,” Dutton told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda programme.
“t’s completely unacceptable.”
Labour frontbencher Michelle Rowland agreed.
“This isn’t some juvenile aiming a laser at a commercial aircraft, this was a military grade laser,” she told Sky News.
“That is deeply concerning and Labor will be seeking a briefing from Defence on this matter. But unfortunately it comes at a time when China’s presence and its actions are continuing to cause concern right across the region and globally as well.”
The lasering came after a week where coalition and Labour were locked in their own verbal combat over national security heading into the May election.
Morrison believes his government has demonstrated its credentials on national security by increasing investment in Defence and its intelligence services, whereas the last Labor government cut both.
He said the coalition also increased funding in border protection and established the Australian Border Force.
“They are the measures of comparison when it comes to determining who is best able to keep Australian’s safe and stand up to threats and intimidation,” Morrison said.
“It’s not just about what you say, it’s about what you do, and this is what we have done.”
Albanese admits whoever wins government will face the difficult task in dealing with China.
“China has changed its ideology under (President) Xi,2 he told reporters in Darwin.
“What Australia needs to do, though, is to continue to stand up for Australian values. And that’s something that we’ve done. It’s important, in order to do that, that there not be false distinctions raised which undermine Australia’s unity, which doesn’t serve the national interest or our purpose,” he said…. PACNEWS