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Chinese Bid for Probuild Squashed by Federal Government

Written by: Danny O. on 18 January 2021


The takeover of tier one construction company Probuild by China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) has been scuttled after federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced he would block the proposed buyout on national security grounds.

The Chinese state-owned construction giant was set to pay $300 million for the Australian-based, but 88 percent South African-owned Probuild. But the bid was blocked by the Treasurer citing Probuild’s role in building the new Victoria Police HQ and local biotech and pharmaceutical giant CSL’s new head office and laboratory complex in Melbourne as reasons to reject the bid. Concerns apparently being that the Chinese government could potentially have access to the blueprints of the security sensitive buildings and hence deemed a national security risk.

Taken on its own merits, it’s a hypocritical and perplexing argument. Probuild is overwhelming a commercial builder with 90 percent of its work in building residential towers, offices, shopping centres etc. It has almost no exposure to critical infrastructure such as tunnels, bridges, airports and railways. On the other hand, John Holland has extensive involvement in such projects and is often a government favourite for those kinds of works. The hypocrisy is John Holland is wholly owned by a different Chinese state-owned enterprise China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) which has been involved in several of the Chinese government’s Belt and Road projects around the world. 

Speaking to the Financial Review, Probuild chairman Simon Gray said, "It’s more politics than it is anything else…No one can give us real reason why we’re a national security risk. It's a joke."

And he’s right. Its another episode in the ongoing tit-for-tat ratcheting up of tensions between China and the US-imperialist bloc in which Australia is firmly placed. The rejection of the takeover will only further entrench the hostility and economic war between the two countries which has pushed the relationship to new lows. 

The fear mongering and China bashing by the Australian government and main stream media serves only to whip up right-wing nationalism and racism amongst the Australian people. Class conscious workers mustn’t fall into the trap of buying into it. 

The rejection of the Probuild takeover, like the rejection of the then Japanese-owned Lion Dairy & Drinks sale to China’s Mengniu Dairy last April has nothing to do with supporting Australian independence or self-sufficiency. Foreign multinationals already have their hands firmly on the core of the Australian economy and its resources. 

The top end of the construction industry is heavily foreign owned. It’s not just Probuild. Multiplex is Canadian, CPB is Spanish, John Holland is Chinese, Icon is Japanese, Watpac is Belgian. Lendlease is about the only locally owned tier one builder left. 

But for Australian construction workers it makes no difference. Workers want decent wages, good conditions, safe jobs, and strong democratically controlled fighting unions. Until Australian workers take the country into their own hands and run it to the benefit of the people, we will keep fighting the bosses, where ever they are from. The class struggle compels it.


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