Beijing critic Andrew Hastie set to visit Asian superpower

23 Oct Beijing critic Andrew Hastie set to visit Asian superpower

LANAI SCARR – THE WEST AUSTRALIAN – WEDNESDAY 23 OCTOBER

The head of Parliament’s powerful committee on intelligence and security, Andrew Hastie, will travel to China in December as part of a delegation of Federal MPs to head north to Beijing.

Mr Hastie, the member for Canning, has been outspoken over the relationship between China and Australia and in August compared the West’s response to the rise of the Asian nation to that of the French against nazi Germany.

But The West Australian can reveal the former Special Air Services Regiment captain has accepted an invitation from China Matters for a three-day study tour at the end of the year.

Confirmation of the visit comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison is yet to secure an invitation to visit China, despite a bevy of business and political leaders urging him to seek out a trip to Beijing.

Mr Hastie, chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, will join fellow conservative and China agitator, Victorian senator James Paterson, on the trip.

Senator Paterson was the first parliamentarian to be outspoken against any extradition treaty with China during the Turnbull government and has regularly made public his anti-China views.

Member for Burt, Labor MP Matt Keogh, has also confirmed his attendance on the trip.

The trio will be on the ground in Beijing from December 9-11 and their schedule will be “packed with informal meetings”.

Full costs of the trip will be covered by China Matters, an independent organisation that seeks to promote better relations between Beijing and Australia.

Its advisory council includes former chief of army Peter Leahy.

In a joint statement to The West Australian, Mr Hastie and Senator Paterson said they looked forward to “deepening our understanding of the Chinese people on this visit”.

“Our views on the Chinese Communist Party are well known and we will raise our concerns on key issues, including detained Australian writer Dr Yang Hengjun and the ongoing situation in Hong Kong.”

The study tour aims to “provide a deeper understanding of the thinking among PRC (People’s Republic of China) middle classes on a range of subjects by informal, off-the-record discussions with trusted people”.

“The tour will maintain the goal of providing an all-round and realistic understanding of contemporary PRC society,” the organisation said in its pitch to the MPs.

Two or three senior business executives will also join the study tour.

Labor’s Richard Marles, Tanya Plibersek and the LNP’s Ted O’Brien joined a China Matters tour last month. Sydney businessman and ex-Cabinet minister Warwick Smith was involved in the infancy of China Matters and first visited the communist state 30 years ago.

He said the trip by Mr Hastie and Senator Paterson was significant. “It may not change all their views but it’s a very important step to take,” Mr Smith said.

“I think it is time for some in the Liberal and Labor parties to seek a deeper learning and understanding on China.

“It is time for them to stop talking and start listening.”

On the weekend, Mr Morrison met China’s Vice-President Wang Qishan while both were in Jakarta for the inauguration of Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

The talks lasted an hour and the PM said a “very clear understanding” had resulted.

Many analysts believe the significant meeting was a foundation stone for China to invite the PMScott Morrison to Beijing.

Mr Morrison is the first leader in recent history to not visit Beijing within his first year of office or shortly after.

Mr Morrison and China’s president Xi Jinping will come face-to-face again at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leader’s meeting in Santiago in mid-November.

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