Australian official rejects criticisms of China investor ban

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s treasurer has rejected accusations that the true reason his government plans to ban Chinese bidders from leasing a Sydney electricity grid is to appease influential lawmakers with xenophobic views.

Treasurer Scott Morrison announced Thursday that he intends to block Chinese state-owned State Grid Corp. and Hong Kong-registered Cheung Kong Infrastructure Group from bidding for a 99-year lease over a 50.4 percent stake in Ausgrid because of classified national security reasons.

Critics including Bob Carr say the decision reflects the wishes of anti-establishment lawmakers who gained balance-of-power roles in the Parliament in elections in June. Carr is director of the Sydney-based Australia-China Relations Institute and a former foreign minister.

Morrison on Friday dismissed Carr’s views as “complete nonsense.”