WTF: China to take control of RAAF base

Via Michael West comes the WTF of the day amid intense competition:

This is the story the Murdoch press buried. Investigative reporter, Anthony Klan, defected from The Australian newspaper after News Corp bosses muzzled his investigations, including this expose into secret Chinese plans to establish a mega-pilot training facility on an Australian airforce training facility.

Virgin Australia may have misled all levels of Australian government and has made dubious public claims about the true identity of its shadowy Chinese partners in its secretive proposal to take control of the nation’s biggest military pilot school, at an RAAF training facility in Tamworth NSW.

It can be revealed that the nation’s second biggest airline failed to inform the NSW Government, the Federal Government, the English speaking media – and even Tamworth council – about any foreign involvement in its proposal whatsoever, despite that mega-project being “certified” by the Chinese Communist Party a year ago.

…National security experts, including Swinburne University of Technology Professor John Fitzgerald, have described Virgin Australia’s secretive push in Tamworth as extremely concerning.

They warn the proposal appears to be a re-run of the highly controversial 2015 deal whereby the Chinese Communist Party-linked Landbridge Group was granted a 99-year lease over the Port of Darwin, a move which drew an angry rebuke from then US President Barrack Obama.

Virgin Australia, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is overwhelmingly foreign-owned. Chinese entities owned at least 42 per cent of the airline at the end of last financial year. Serious concerns about Virgin’s Tamworth mega-school proposal – including that it appeared to be secretly planning to take control of the facility with two highly questionable Chinese conglomerates – were first raised on the morning of March 22 this year, in an article which appeared on The Australian newspaper’s website (but not in print).

…Searches of company databases in Australia and Hong Kong reveal that Virgin Australia’s partners in its plans to gain control of the current Tamworth RAAF training facility are Chinese conglomerate HNA Group – which has close links to the Chinese Communist Party – and Winbright Overseas Investment Limited.

Winbright Overseas Investment Limited is a company domiciled in the British Virgin Islands, a prominent tax haven, and is an arm of the shadowy Chinese conglomerate the Beijing Winbright Investment Co. Virgin Australia has repeatedly, strenuously, denied having any involvement whatsoever with Winbright.

HNA Group and the Chinese Communist Party

HNA Group, one of Virgin Australia’s two key partners in the Tamworth proposal, is a highly controversial Chinese conglomerate which owns Hainan Airlines, along with a mixed-bag of other investments.

“HNA’s ownership structure is so opaque that some other market regulators have acted to prevent its involvement in acquisitions and mergers,” Professor Fitzgerald said.

“It is closely bound up with the CCP party state and acts on the party’s instructions. “The firm and its private foundation are heavily involved in ‘donations’ for political influence in the USA and internationally,” he said.

HNA Group, whose chairman and co-founder Wang Jian died mid-last year in unusual circumstances after apparently falling from a wall in France, has also raised serious concerns among governments and security experts around the world, given its opaque structure and its ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

That murkiness has led to a number of groups, such as Bank of America, refusing to do business with it.

Separate from the Tamworth proposal, HNA Group has for several years owned about 20 per cent of the shares in the ASX-listed Virgin Australia. The Virgin stake was part of a global acquisition binge where HNA swooped on $US40 billion worth of acquisitions across six continents in two years.

Professor Fitzgerald said it was remarkable that long-standing connection between HNA Group and Virgin Australia had not yet been properly questioned, given that the serious concerns around HNA Group were well known among security experts.

“Given all this is public information, it has long baffled me that no-one has called Virgin to account for its corporate association with HNA,” Professor Fitzgerald said.

HNA Group is a well-known advocate of Beijing’s so-called Belt and Road global infrastructure roll-out, which is seen by many experts as being used by Beijing to advance its military interests by stealth.

Security experts have raised serious concerns that HNA Group’s current secretive advances on the RAAF facility – which sits adjacent to Tamworth Regional Airport’s large, military-grade runway, just 300km north of Sydney – could form part of Beijing’s clandestine military push.

HNA Group and Winbright have repeatedly failed to respond to requests for comment in recent weeks. AIAC has also declined to comment.

Monster proposal at military facility

The site that Virgin Australia, HNA Group and Beijing Winbright Investment Co are seeking to gain control of is a specialised military training facility that for the past three decades has been at the heart of the Australian Defence Force’s aviation training operations.

Since the 1990’s, it has been leased by Tamworth Regional Council to British defence giant BAE Systems, which has been contracted by the Australian Defence Force to train RAAF recruits at the facility.

In 2015 the Australian Defence Force put to tender a new, 25-year multi-billion dollar pilot training contract for that training role, and BAE Systems lost the bid to US defence group Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin will train RAAF pilots from a base in Sale, Victoria. BAE Systems will cease training RAAF pilots in Tamworth by October 31. A September 2015 ABC articleabout BAE Systems losing its ADF contract underscored the specialised military nature of the Tamworth facility.

It quoted MP Mr Joyce who cited other possible tenants for the facility, including the Republic of Singapore Air Force, the Royal Brunei Air Force and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.

“We are currently in negotiations with them in expanding their use of that facility,” Mr Joyce told the ABC.

“Our base in Tamworth will continue to be used and we’ve had the Prime Minister (Abbott) of Australia over in Singapore talking about Tamworth’s base to the Singaporean Prime Minister, to see what we can do to make that facility more available for them.”

At the same time, BAE’s Director of Aerospace, Steve Drury, highlighted the massive size of the Tamworth military facility, telling the ABC: “The deal we have with Defence is quite large and so I don’t think any one single contract can actually replace it”.

“We’re talking about a combination of possible futures that we can have and we’re also interested in determining whether civil flying training can be done in that facility.”

Mega-school for Chinese pilots, not Australians

Virgin Australia and its two Chinese conglomerate partners are well aware of the size of the Tamworth facility. Under their proposal, they would train 500 students at a time there, making it one of the biggest flight schools in the nation.

Such a mega-facility would be well beyond the needs of Virgin Australia: it currently trains between 10 and 40 pilots at a time at its existing facilities.

However, in a statement – which Virgin Australia has attempted to distance itself from – HNA Group and Winbright have told Chinese language media in Australia that the facility will actually be aimed squarely at Chinese nationals.

“It is aimed at Chinese high school graduates and undergraduate students under 26 years of age from overseas Chinese university students,” that statement quoted HNA Group and Winbright as saying.

Mega school officially “certified” by Chinese Communist Party

Remarkably, that August 2018 press release states that the new mega-school had been “certified” by China’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Administration of China. “This project is the only CAAC-certified airline pilot training program in Australia,” the statement says.

It says Chinese high school and university students could begin training at the flight school after meeting a series of requirements including passing physical examination, psychological tests and a theoretical examination.

After those were met, “a training agreement can be signed with the shipping department and a full flight training at the aviation school.”

“After that, they will be able to sign a labor contract with the shipping division and become an airline pilot,” the statement says.

…Australian Government and authorities had no idea

In response to the March 22 online report in The Australian, and despite Virgin Australia’s repeated claims that it had been “100 per cent transparent” about the Tamworth proposal, federal member for New England Barnaby Joyce said he was shocked and had “no idea”of any foreign involvement.

“I thought it was Virgin,” Mr Joyce said of the proposal, calling on Virgin Australia to come clean. Likewise, the office of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian also denied knowledge of any foreign involvement in the Virgin Australia mega-school project, when contacted by this reporter.

“This is first we’ve heard of it,” spokesman Miles Godfrey said in March.

After repeated requests for information over many days, NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet spokesman Matthew Sun distanced the NSW government from the project entirely, and said it was a matter for Tamworth council.

“Tamworth Regional Council independently made an agreement with Virgin Australia regarding the proposed Tamworth flight school,” Mr Sun said in a written statement.
“There was no NSW Government involvement in that specific decision.”

The statement continued: “Tamworth Regional Council announced its partnership on 31 October 2018”. “Questions regarding the selection and due-due-diligence process undertaken by Council prior to the announcement should be directed to Tamworth Regional Council”.

But remarkably, even Tamworth Regional Council had no idea of the involvement of major foreign conglomerates in Virgin Australia’s proposal before reading about it in that March 22 online article in The Australian.

Days later, Tamworth Regional Council general manager Paul Bennett told local paper The Northern Daily Leader that the council had been in talks with Virgin Australia but it had had “no dealings with Chinese aviation giants Hainan and Winbright Aviation”.

“Any Chinese involvement in the Virgin Australia pilot training school is news to Tamworth Regional Council,” Mr Bennett told The Northern Daily Leader.

“Council had never heard of Winbright Aviation until the story was published in national media [last week].”

Aviation veteran and former chairman of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Dick Smith, was equally dumbfounded by the revelations.

“Virgin I thought was Aussie-owned but in fact it’s pretty well completely foreign-owned and it looks like it is completely Chinese government controlled,” Mr Smith said. “I am desperately worried about aviation and for this to be done secretly is just unbelievable.”

…That FIRB application is the final step in the process.

The decision to approve or reject the proposal lies solely with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Much more at the piece. The brazenness is astounding.

David Llewellyn-Smith
Latest posts by David Llewellyn-Smith (see all)


  1. Ronin8317MEMBER

    The HNA group is as dodgy as they come. It is now majority owned by a ‘charity’ after each of the HNA Group individual shareholders pledge to leave their shareholding to the ‘charity’ when they dies. Then they started dying.

    The Australians have stopped reporting on the story probably because they don’t want their management to “fall down a wall while taking pictures” either.

    Once the government decided to contract Lockheed Martin to do the RAAF training, the only way the airbase can continue to survive is Chinese money. Politicians claiming they have ‘no idea’ about Chinese involvement are lying, since the proposal, right at the start, says ‘will only train Chinese pilots’. This is another ‘own goal’.

    • @nikm it already is, those overseas students who arrive here aren’t coming here to study, they’re simply colonists.

      • Tamworth Air Force base,,, sounds like it would be a great asset to convert into an internment camp & then deportation facility for the 1.34 million Chinese mainland born communists inside Australian.

        1.34 million ‘China First’ Chinese onshore in Australia.

        🇨🇳283,000 Chinese mainland born communists as citizens grants, many with no English after a decade or more, the early wave of infiltration & party fixers.

        🇨🇳428,000 as ‘PR’ – sucking up our welfare & Medicare – almost all the Hukuo underclass (Chinese internal illegals and 2nd gen peasantry being expelled from the tier 1 Chinese cities). Used by the Chinese criminal syndicates to launder in their dirty money into Australian modest housing as a proxy (no FIRB checks) & to run the migrant labour rackets, the cash in hand bunk share & their vice & crime empire.

        🇨🇳 289,000 Chinese mainland born communists as ‘TR’. The ubiquitous fake student or partner & other visa categories. The epi-centre of the vice & drug trade.

        🇨🇳145,000 Chinese mainland born communists as NZ SCV. Can’t get into Australia or been kicked out? – come in via the NZ loophole.

        🇨🇳175,000 Chinese mainland born communists as long stay & repeat stay tourist visitors to also live & work illegally. We have 8.8 million tourist visitors each year dominates by Chinese & Indians. 5% or 440,000 third world migrates living & working illegally.

        Plus 20,000 or so overstayer of the 65,000 or so.

        => 1.34 million Chinese mainland born communists onshore.
        80% or 1.057 million are non citizen Chinese Nationals.

        86% concentration in Sydney & Melbourne.

        Vast Chinese mainland born communist enclaves.
        Zero assimilation.
        Trafficked in as part of the South Guangzhou clomp.

        -> It needs a good size military style base to detain and intern them – until flown back to China.

        Chinese pilots are fine as long as it’s one way.

  2. Australia is no longer a nation. Maybe it hasn’t been for some time. Just an area being fought over by various competing ethnicities for what was created by the previous momentum of western civilization.

    • Australia was stolen from the aboriginals. Like all things stolen, it was never truly valued and is being sold super cheap.

    • Torchwood1979

      Trump may be a devo pervert with a compulsive lying disorder but he’s right about tackling the CCP on. All power to him I say!

      • Micheal Jackson was a ghoulish, medically deformed pedophile but he did write some catchy songs.

  3. This is crappy.

    But….I fear our govt, and the people of the Tamworth will just scream, “Jobs and Growff!”, and then it will all be approved, with “conditions” (which will be token and soft).

    That’s basically what happened with Adani, so it will probably happen here.

    Maybe we should let Virgin et al have it – on the condition that ASIO manages the facility – then watch them backtrack…

    Sigh. We are such sellouts.

  4. I’m a little lost and unsure what everyone is offended by.
    From my understanding
    – this proposed facility is for training civilian pilots
    – every pilot training facility (anywhere in the world) is at the moment overrun with Chinese trainee pilots
    – anyone starting a commercial pilot training facility anywhere in the world will be directly or indirectly targeting Chinese pilots (it’s called satisfying available demand)…it’s an important concept especially for anyone wanting to run a successful business

    OK so it’s in Tamworth
    would it be tolerable if it were located elsewhere in Australia (btw don’t look to closely at the enrollment details for other pilot training facilities )

    • You keep showing yourself to be a fake if you think nothing is wrong with this or with our govt either keeping hush hush or incompetently not knowing what is going on

      • You do understand that the RAAF has already moved their own training to Victoria(correction RAAF will be finished in Oct 19) , so I’m nor sure what is left in Tamworth. And when it’s all said it’s only really a runway. It would seem extremely unlikely that any specialty military radars would be left operational. So exactly what is it that they’re buying / leasing?
        Regardless they’re training commercial pilots, what’s wrong with doing that?
        Would you be happier if the training facility (aka airport) were in say Indonesia and staffed by Australians
        would you be happy the other way around (Indonesian pilots training Chinese in Australia?
        what is it precisely that displeases you?

        Please do explain because I’m F’ed if I can see anything wrong with this proposal.

      • I’m waiting for your explanation
        ….surely you’re not short of reasons why this is a bad idea
        —surely you can easily educate an idiot (or was it Moron) like me
        …. I realize I lack you’re experience / expertise in business …so maybe it’s just a bad business idea.
        I’m waiting and actually interested in understanding your view point
        Or is it anything and everything Chinese that offends you?

      • Some of us have lives to lead. I don’t think it is ok for a foreigner to be secretly setting up a base to train their pilots in our country when it is hard enough to train our own pilots. A relative of mine went to Sth E Asia to train and now works for a foreign airline because he couldn’t get a spot in Aus. This story repeats again and again in schools, unis, houses, etc I don’t need to describe it to you. I have a heritage in this country and my ancestors fought for this place which is being sold off in every way possible by our selfish politicians. You are obviously a foreigner and have no attachment to Aus hence you see no problem selling off the place. Maybe move to China and see what rights the government affords you as a foreigner.

      • I’m about as Aussie as you can get without being Aboriginal.
        I had 3 would be great uncles die fighting for Australia in WW! and one would be uncle die in WW2
        On my mothers side the family goes back to 1815, on my farther’s side it’d mid 1860’s.
        As for living in China, yeah I’ve done that too.
        My only point is that we need to use the resources that are available to us, especially unique / scarce resources like a fully functioning runway and airport training facility. It won’t improve with age if we don’t use it so by all means let some Chinese train their commercial pilots there.
        Why not make Australia a world class center of excellence for training commercial pilots?
        We have lots of land and the skies above that are not being used for anything and we have a facility like this only a 30 minute flight from Sydney..
        There are lots of reasons why this could be the beginnings of something massive, as you say we have a shortage of training facilities for even training our own pilots, so expand, double it and double it again. Get all the resources and interest aligned and cater for the strong global demand for Commercial pilots.


    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      Well, the Chinese will takeover all Australian flight schools if this continues.

      It’s like the A2 baby formula shortage, except with more devastating effect. Let’s hope the AI flying will take over soon because we won’t have any Australians pilots. We could take the other approach : don’t sell our aviation schools, train pilots locally, and let the Chinese airline hire them. But that would require some kind of planning ahead from our politicians.

      • Huh I don’t get it
        There’s enormous demand in China for Commercial pilots so lots of Australian pilots do already work for Chinese airlines (or used to when I flew regularly around China) I would estimate that about half of Dragon Airs pilots (around 2010 were Australian) China is trying to train sufficient pilots to meet its exploding domestic demand hence the desire to acquire existing Pilot training facilities and established training schools.
        They need to be trained, we have available facilities, what’s not to love about Chinese demand being catered for by Australian companies?
        I suggest you look at how many Boeing / Airbus planes are sold to China each year. For each plane they require about 15 pilots

      • Ronin8317MEMBER

        After all the pilot schools in Australia beginners ‘Chinese only’, how could an Australian become a commercial pilot? Moved overseas?

        The Chinese demand for pilots is indeed ravenous, but this is a problem of their own making. If the Chinese military open the air space over China, then their pilots won’t need to get their training from overseas. (And air travel will improve immensely as well).

    • SnappedUpSavvyMEMBER

      its the fact Virgin is largely foreign owned and one of the major owners is HNA a dodgy Chinese company that’s basically controlled by the CCP – didn’t you read that bit

      • Yeah I read that but that’s not new. and from what I’ve heard Virgin wouldn’t be still flying if it weren’t for these Chinese investors.
        To be honest from my experience neither Australian’s individually nor Australian pension funds want to own investments/ like airline companies. these are very risky investments especially if they’re second tier companies. Aussies don’t need to invest in these sorts of risky enterprises when they can all invest in good old Aussie Real Estate.

    • Golden Trumpet

      This blog is straight up racist in regards to Chinese – no other way to describe it. The only defense I have ever seen mounted is that “they have a different political system to ours” – single party. This appears to be all that is required to literally condemn anything and everything in the most hysterical “REDS UNDER THE BEDS” propaganda campaign since McCarthy – not once, ever have I seen even the most basic defense of the facts – its pure frothing fear mongering.

      I would very much like to know how much is paid for, or even mandated, under state propaganda laws.

      • You lost me there mate.
        Are you suggesting that I’m a racist?
        To be honest that’s a bit of target .

      • @fisho. The way I read it was that GT was referring to the entire MB web thing. He may have a point. On the other hand, sometimes you have to shout loud to get heard

    • Easy there fisho! You’re ruining our groupthink bandwagon!

      The ‘i’m racist but don’t you dare call me that’ target group, is, sad to say, being targeted by MB. Wasn’t always like this.

  5. SupernovaMEMBER

    Tamworth Council should be advised to do their own simple research. On Virgin Australia’s Board of Directors are 2 Chinese nationals of which one director a Mr Hou Wei is a senior executive of HNA since 2006. Maybe Mr Bennett of Tamworth Council could be advised to ask what type of association HNA has with the CCP? Or would that question threaten the iron ore price?

  6. Good on MB, MW and the journalist for doing real journalism rather than property advertorials on which suburb will boom next. MSM can go suck a . for not reporting this, the real news gets more unbelievable with each passing day.

  7. I have been reading for some time that the Chinese are or were creating flying schools in Oz – so its not news to me.

    Here is one article about such a facility in WA, and I read they were doing the same in NSW

    Qantas and Virgin have been replacing Aussie pilots with foreign pilots for some time because they come cheaper. We can thank the Lib/Lab/Greens for the lose of local skills and the replacement of Aussies, and of course John Howard and the China loving/employed Hawke and Keating (plus others).

    The country is gone – only a matter of time before that will be formalised – plenty of politicians on the make in this process plus a host of Quislings at all stages of the process taking their cut.

    • Golden Trumpet

      NO NO NO NO NO !

      You are getting int he way of the fear mongering propaganda and unsheathed visceral hatred of China by the Anglophiles.

      Take your facts elsewhere – there is a serious group-think rage going on here.

  8. AtaraxianMEMBER

    The ownership arrangements of HNA are certainly suspect. However, there’s already Chinese national civilian trainee pilots at Tamworth. They’re being trained by CAE Oxford on contract for a Chinese airline with the full support of the Tamworth Council. They work in the same building as Singapore Air Force and Australian Army trainee pilots. The HNA/Virgin school is additional to the CAE Oxford school. The journo has gone off half-cocked.

  9. Money corrupts and Rupert Murdoch is the worst Irish lizard there is…

    He’s a traitor and should be tarred and feathered

    • How is that man still alive? He must be a good example of german medical technology.

  10. Oh and I don’t give a monkeys butt what people say in defence of him so bring it on….

  11. When old jokes ring true
    “Just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they are not out to get you”