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Albanese Government refuses to disclose if any MPs are shopping on Temu despite data and slavery concerns

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Remy Varga
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Temu operates as an online marketplace connecting sellers and consumers and has a network of about 80,000 vendors that are largely based in China.
Temu operates as an online marketplace connecting sellers and consumers and has a network of about 80,000 vendors that are largely based in China. Credit: The Nightly

The Albanese Labor Government is refusing to disclose whether any members of government have used the Chinese e-commerce platform Temu despite concerns over data security and slavery.

The Nightly individually asked every Labor and Coalition member of parliament and most of the independents whether they had ever used the app, which is a subsidiary of Chinese PDD Holdings.

Security experts have raised concerns over the app as China’s national security laws require companies to cooperate with Chinese Communist Party security agencies while prohibiting them from publicly disclosing whether they have accessed the data.

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US lawmakers have also warned there was an “extremely high risk” products sold by Temu could have been made with or linked to forced labour.

In response to The Nightly’s questions to individual politicians, a spokeswoman for Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones said “Australians are urged to remain vigilant when online shopping.”

“Anyone concerned about scams, fraud or security risks can keep up to date with the advice from the ACCC to better protect themselves,” she said.

The Nightly then asked whether the government was aware if any MPs or Senators had downloaded Temu or purchased something from the e-commerce platform and was referred to the aforementioned statement. It is understood Education Minister Jason Clare said he had never used Temu.

The opposition also did not answer questions when The Nightly asked whether any members of their party had used Temu, although it is understood Kevin Hogan and Luke Howarth have never used the e-commerce platform.

Greens NSW Senator David Shoebridge admitted to downloading the app and purchasing a set of cooking liners for an air fryer before deleting the platform after learning of data security and supply chain concerns.

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Senator David Shoebridge urged consumers to not use Temu and inform themselves of the security risks as well as the lack of supply chain safeguards.  Credit: News Corp Australia

Senator Shoebridge urged consumers to not use Temu and to inform themselves of the security risks as well as the lack of supply chain safeguards.

“I purchased a set of cooking liners for an air fryer and then shortly after deleted the app, the lack of privacy protections and the concerns about its unethical supply chain was the reason,” he said.

“I would urge people not to use the app and, like myself, inform themselves about the risks, protect their data and look for more transparent and ethical online platforms.

“I suspect I’m not alone in having received relentless ads for this site across social media applications who are themselves making money pushing this concerning app.”

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 16: Greens candidate for the seat of Griffith Max Chandler-Mather speaks during the Greens national campaign launch at Black Hops Brewery on May 16, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. The Australian federal election will be held on Saturday 21 May, 2022. (Photo by Dan Peled/Getty Images)
Greens member for Griffith Max Chandler-Mather said he had never used Temu.  Credit: Dan Peled/Getty Images

Greens member for Griffith Max Chandler-Mather, independent Senator David Pocock and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said they had never used Temu.

Of the so-called teal independents, Wentworth MP Allegra Spender, Goldstein MP Zoe Daniel and Kooyong MP Monique Ryan said they had never used the e-commerce platform.

The Federal Government has banned bureaucrats and politicians from having Tiktok on government-issued devices due to the security risk from the breadth of data it can access but has not moved on any other apps.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Fergus Ryan said Chinese technology companies were unable to refuse requests from the Chinese government for consumer data because national security laws effectively compelled individuals and companies to participate in the “intelligence network”.

“If the authorities requested user data from these companies, they would be required by law to assist the government and then would be legally prevented from speaking publicly about the matter,” he said.

According to Temu’s data security policy, the e-commerce platform only collects the minimum amount of information necessary to run the app, including managing and completing orders.

Temu operates as an online marketplace connecting sellers and consumers and has a network of about 80,000 vendors that are largely based in China.

Last year US lawmakers warned of an “extremely high risk” products sold by Temu could have been made with or linked to forced labour. The e-commerce platform has said it has prohibited its vendors from using forced, penal or child labour.

The Home Affairs Department is developing a framework to address “vendor-based national security risks” that will go to the Government for consideration in the second half of 2024 and has brought forward a review of the data broker ecosystem.

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