“The biggest single problem is that a lot of Australians have not done their homework, they have not done the hard yards to get their head around what the Chinese are doing and what they are saying,” says Ross Babbage, a former analyst with the Office of National Assessments. “A lot of people assume we’re looking at a benign power. We are not.”
However, Ross Babbage, a former senior intelligence official, told The Australian Financial Review’s Aaron Patrick this week that Dastyari “may have been recruited as an agent of influence”. This means that Beijing looks to him as someone who will help to increase China’s influence in Australia. No more than that — but this is important in itself.
Ross Babbage, a former Office of National Assessments analyst and senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment in Washington, said Beijing’s security services were conducting a far-reaching campaign to influence and shape opinion in the West.
“There is a strategy to recruit and insert and encourage, and to some extent fund, agents of influence,’’ Professor Babbage told The Weekend Australian. “We have not seen this type of activity in Australia since the Cold War.’’
But Kate Blakeley, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the tax bill has the potential to constrain defense spending in the mid-2020s -- when DOD expects to face massive bills for several major acquisition programs.
"Defense spending would be particularly squeezed when the 'dynamic' effects of the tax changes fail to achieve enough revenue or if the deficit balloons more than expected," she wrote in an email.
"Pressure to extend the individual tax cuts that currently expire in 2025 will also set up a classic guns vs. butter conflict," she continued. "Unfortunately for the Pentagon, the mid-2020s are exactly when the bow wave of acquisition costs will hit, even without the expected growth in procurement spending the Trump administration is expected to request for FY-19 and beyond."
"China has certainly been active, essentially campaigning for political influence here," he told ABC Radio. "It has been involved in a raft of indirect activities through a range of business people, some of whom are ethnic Chinese, some of whom are not."
2018 defense spending is capped at $549 billion. The White House requested $603 billion. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees want to spend $640 billion. For those numbers and far, far more, head over to the detailed analysis of the presidential budget request released yesterday by CSBA’s Katherine Blakeley.