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SENATE INQUIRY INTO AUSTRALIA-CHINA RELATIONS

29 April 2020

 

Senator Rex Patrick will renew his push for the Senate to establish a wide-ranging inquiry into Australia’s future relationship with China. 

“Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye’s explicit threat this week of a Chinese boycott of Australian services leaves no doubt that a substantial reset of Australia’s relations with China is required,” Senator Patrick said. 

“The Ambassador revealed China’s true diplomatic face and confirmed concerns about China’s preference for control and coercion rather than partnership.” 

“The Chinese Government’s response to Australian support for an international inquiry into of the COVID-19 pandemic confirms the increasingly fraught nature of Australia-China relations and makes it all the more important that Australia carefully consider our future approach to dealings with Beijing.”

“A business as usual approach is clearly not a sustainable proposition. We need a deep dive into the dynamics of Australia-China relations to determine the best strategies moving forward.” 

“Over nearly eighteen months, I have on five occasions moved a motion in the Senate to establish a Senate Committee inquiry into Australia’s relationship with China. On each occasion that initiative was blocked by the combined votes of the Coalition Government and the Labor Opposition. Neither the Coalition or Labor offered any satisfactory explanation for their obstruction, but it was always clear they feared Beijing’s reaction.” 

“A great deal has happened since the last time, 3 December 2019, the Coalition and Labor vetoed a Senate inquiry and they should not be intimidated by China’s boycott diplomacy.” 

“Had the Government and Opposition not self-censored, we would already have a Senate Committee working on wide-ranging inquiry and able to draw on expertise within government, business, universities and non-government organisations to advise on our links with Beijing in a post-coronavirus crisis world.”

“However I intend to give the Coalition and Labor a further opportunity to act in Australia’s national interest.” 

“Issues that could be examined by a Senate inquiry include China’s strategic ambitions in the South China Sea, South East Asia and the Pacific; Australia-China trade relations including the full extent of Australian dependence on Chinese markets; Chinese investment in Australia including in resources, telecommunications and critical infrastructure; the role of the Chinese Government in restricting access to its own markets to facilitate takeover bids for Australian exporters; China and Australia’s interest in international health issues including the COVID-19 pandemic; Chinese Government influence on Australian university campuses, and Chinese Government interference in Australian federal and state level politics." 

“Australia is at a strategic, diplomatic and economic turning point in our relations with China,” Senator Patrick said. 

“With the Government and Opposition both calling for an international inquiry into China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, they should now support a rigorous Parliamentary examination of Australia’s relations with China.”  

"Only then will we start to build a new national consensus on managing this important relationship in what are difficult times. Australia’s national interest demands nothing less." 

“I will move a new motion to establish an inquiry by the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Reference Committee when the Parliament sits between 12 and 14 May.”