Treasurer ‘parroting Beijing’ on Tariffs

20 May Treasurer ‘parroting Beijing’ on Tariffs

Rachel Baxendale – The Australian – Wednesday 20 May 2020

Victorian Liberal senator has accused the state’s Treasurer of “parroting foreign propaganda” and undermining Australia’s position on China.

Senator James Paterson’s comments came after Tim Pallas said China’s imposition of an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley was a consequence “of the way the federal government has conducted themselves”.

Mr Pallas’s comments follow his description last week of China’s decision to suspend imports from four abattoirs in NSW and Queensland as “inevitably a consequence of the use of language that I think has seemed to vilify China rather than to recognise that these are events that will need appropriate scrutiny and review in time”.

Senator Paterson said it was not the first time the Victorian government had “undermined Australia on these national policy issues”.

“They sadly have form parroting foreign propaganda,” he said. “It would be nice if, for a change, they took Australia’s side in a dispute.”

Earlier, Mr Pallas was asked for his views on Australia’s diplomacy with China.

“I’ve been pretty clear that I’m not a big fan of the way the federal government has managed the relationship with China more generally,” he said.

“I think there are occasions when we do need to assert our independence, and I made it clear when I was asked should there be an inquiry into the pandemic, I took the view, yes, there should be, but I don’t think in the sense that we should be vilifying any particular nation. Every country will have to stand to account, their leadership will have to stand to account with how they reacted to the challenges that coronavirus actually presented.”

Asked whether he saw China’s tariffs as retaliation for Australia’s stance on an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, Mr Pallas said: “I can’t hazard to speculate what goes on in the minds of leaders of other countries.

“All I can say is I don’t suppose it would come as a surprise to anybody that this was the consequences of the way that the federal government has conducted themselves. We have to take China as a genuine and important trading partner. We have to deal with them with respect, and we have to be prepared, I think, to recognise that our systems and governments are very, very different.”

Asked whether he shared federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham’s concerns about the barley tariff, which will affect many Victorian barley growers, Mr Pallas said he was opposed to unnecessary barriers to trade.

“The more barriers we put up with regard to trade, the more damage it will do to the return of the economic wellbeing of the world economy,” he said.

Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said he was worried about Victorian farmers.

“Victorian barley is a huge export earner for this state,” Mr O’Brien said. “Our farmers rely on it for income and for jobs.

“Daniel Andrews is supposed to be the premier with a special relationship with the Chinese communist government.

“He’s supposed to be the premier with the special Belt and Road deal with Beijing. Well, Premier, why isn’t your special relationship with China saving Victorian farmers? Why isn’t your special deal with China saving Victorian jobs, because our barley farmers are going to cop it in the neck.”

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