Peter Dutton, who is in charge of defense, says a Chinese spy ship was seen near a secret naval base off the coast of Western Australia.
Off the coast of West Australia, a high-tech Chinese spy ship has been found near a secret naval communications base that helps American and other allied submarines.
Defense Minister Peter Dutton said that the ADF kept a close eye on the auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) vessel as it went by the Harold E. Holt naval station in Exmouth.
Mr. Dutton said that Australia had been keeping an eye on the spy ship for the past "week or so," but he didn't say exactly when.
"Of course, its goal is to gather information right along the coast," he said.
"It has been close to military and intelligence facilities on Australia's west coast."
The Defence Minister called the situation "unprecedented" and said that he was worried not only about how far south the ship had gone but also about how close it had been to the coast as it headed back north toward Darwin.
He said the situation was "very strange" and that he thought the ship was probably gathering as much information as it could.
Mr. Dutton denied that he was saying this to make people worry about national security and get votes before the federal election on May 21.
This year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was "reckless and irresponsible" for a Chinese warship to shine a laser at a RAAF plane as it approached Australia's northern coast.
When asked if he had gone to Western Australia to make the announcement, Mr. Dutton wouldn't say, citing "operational reasons." "I think people understand the difficulty, the reality, of the Indo-Pacific right now, and the acts of aggression from the Chinese leadership and from the Chinese government," he said.
"I think Australians deserve to know what's going on, and this is the same thing we've done before when we've told the public about these kinds of things."
Last year, the ABC reported that the Defense Department had canceled a controversial plan to use private security guards to protect the Harold E. Holt Naval Communications Station, which is one of the most secretive and important military facilities in the country.