Labor faces a belting

06 Jul Labor faces a belting

Tom Minnear – The Herald Sun – Monday 06 July 2020

Voters across key Labor seats fear Victoria’s controversial Belt and Road deal will give the Chinese Communist Party influence over the Andrews Government.

The Herald Sun can reveal almost two-thirds of voters surveyed in the Labor-held federal seats of Macnamara, Wills, Gellibrand and Scullin were concerned about Mr Andrews’ support for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s global infrastructure initiative.

The deal was signed in 2018 without the backing of the Federal Government, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called on Mr Andrews to rip it up.

The automated phone survey, commissioned by Liberal senator James Paterson, canvassed 3819 voters across the four seats. Of those, only 22 per cent said they were not concerned by the Belt and Road agreement, while 14 per cent said they did not know.

The proportion of voters registering their concern ranged from 59.1 per cent in Wills, held by Peter Khalil, to 68.9 per cent in Andrew Giles’ seat of Scullin.

The survey data comes after the Herald Sun revealed there was growing internal tension among state and federal Labor MPs about the agreement.

Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese said last month he would not sign up to Belt and Road if he was prime minister.

Senator Paterson called on Mr Khalil and Mr Scullin, as well as Macnamara MP Josh Burns and Gellibrand MP Tim Watts, to speak out and tell Mr Andrews “to dump this bad deal”.

“Victorians are right to be concerned about Daniel Andrews’ Belt and Road deal with the Chinese Communist Party,” he said. “It is the signature soft-power initiative of the CCP. It is designed to project its power around the world and particularly in our region.”

“Daniel Andrews should not be aiding the CCP in that task. It’s contrary to the policy of the Federal Government and it’s beyond the competence or expertise of a state government.”

Asked about the survey, Mr Burns did not say if he supported Victoria’s agreement.

“I don’t support the Coalition backbenchers who are constantly undermining their own Foreign Minister’s ability to manage complex relationships,” he said.

Mr Khalil said: “If the Morrison Government has an issue with something a state is doing, it should engage with that state directly, rather than having a backbencher playing political games.”

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