28 Aug China backs Dan Deal
Tom Minear, Tamsin Rose, & Alex White – Herald Sun – Friday 28 August 2020
Premier wants new trade markets if plan fails DANIEL Andrews has questioned Scott Morrison’s priorities and demanded the Prime Minister come up with new trade markets for Victoria if his Belt and Road deal with China is cancelled.
But critics of the Premier’s agreement say it has not produced any trade benefits and undermines Australia’s national interest by endorsing the China’s “soft power” initiative.
Mr Morrison said on Thursday he would not “prejudice the outcome” of sweeping new laws allowing the federal government to review and cancel agreements signed by states, councils and universities with foreign governments.
On Thursday night in Beijing, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman denounced Mr Morrison’s proposed legislation.
“China’s co-operation with the Victorian state under the BRI has enhanced the benefits for people on both sides of the deal,” spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
“We hope Australia will view such co-operation objectively and reasonably, and stop putting bacteria into this relationship and do more to improve our mutual benefits.”
Asked about Victoria’s Belt and Road deal, Mr Morrison – who previously called for it to be ripped up – said if any agreements were “inconsistent with federal foreign affairs policy, they’ll go”.
He recently organised a national security briefing for state leaders to “know what I know”, but Mr Andrews said he only learned of the crackdown in a letter from the PM on Thursday night.
“If the Prime Minister’s got time to be doing those things, that’s fine for him. I don’t,” he said.
The Premier said the Belt and Road agreement was part of a “passport to export” to support Victorian jobs, and he expected Mr Morrison would come up with “alternative trading arrangements, alternative free trade agreements, alternative markets” if it was scrapped.
“I’ll leave that to the PM to announce, but presumably that’s coming, and it’s coming quick,” Mr Andrews said.
Mr Morrison’s plan received widespread backing, including from senior Labor figures concerned about Victoria’s Belt and Road deal. Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese said he was “very supportive” of the federal government looking after Australia’s national interests.
He said federal Labor had shifted to oppose signing up to Belt and Road because of the Chinese Communist Party’s “far more interventionist” approach in recent years.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said Victoria’s lack of consultation with the commonwealth on the deal partly prompted the new laws.
Victorian Liberal senator James Paterson said the agreement was “completely unnecessary to facilitate trade”.
“The best thing that facilitates trade between Australia and China is the free trade agreement which the federal government brought into force in 2015,” he said.