Defense Secretary Richard Marles has revealed that “enough evidence” has emerged of claims that former RAAF personnel are training Chinese pilots to warrant a review of current legislation.
However, Marles firmly refused to tell reporters whether it had been confirmed that Australians were involved.
It follows reports last month that China had reached out to former British and Australian pilots. Shortly thereafter, local police arrested a former US Marine Corps pilot and flight instructor at the request of US authorities for his work in China.
“The information provided to me so far constitutes sufficient evidence to justify the need for a detailed investigation into the adequacy of current defense policies and procedures in this matter,” Minister Marles said in a statement.
He added former staff have an “enduring obligation” to protect national secrets and changes in the law would be made if “weaknesses” were identified.
“I want to emphasize this point. For those who come into possession of our nation’s secrets, either through service in the Australian Defense Force or indeed through service in another part of the Commonwealth, there is an enduring obligation to safeguard those secrets for as long as they are secrets that long after they are engaged to the Commonwealth, and to breach that obligation is a very serious crime.
“And that’s clear and unequivocal.”
Currently, ex-service personnel are only permitted to work with foreign military personnel with permission from Australia.
Last month, Australian Aviation reported that the Ministry of Defense would launch an investigation into claims by British newspapers that former Air Force pilots were training Chinese forces in aircraft including the Typhoons, Jaguars, Harriers and Tornados.
It followed The times Former RAF personnel were reportedly paid AU$430,000 a year to help China “develop its tactics and technological know-how”.
The Australian then later revealed RAAF veterans were part of the western cohort of 30 who were approached through a South African flight school who acted as facilitators.
Defense Secretary Richard Marles said at the time he would be “shocked and concerned” if pilots “were lured by a paycheck from a foreign country rather than serving their own country.”
Finally, weeks later, Australian police arrested a former US Marine Corps pilot.
Daniel Edmund Duggan, 54, was arrested in Orange, NSW on October 21 and appeared in court the same day, according to court documents, his lawyer and two police sources. He later said he would “vehemently” fight his extradition.