03 Sep Daniel Andrews’ Belt and Road deal with China rejected by Victorian voters
Frank Chung – The Herald Sun – Wednesday 2 September 2020
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ secretive deal with China has been roundly rejected by voters.
A new poll released by the conservative think tank the Institute of Public affairs shows the majority of Victorians want the state government to pull out of the controversial Belt and Road scheme.
In the poll of 1040 people, 54 per cent agreed, while just 12 per cent disagreed, and 34 per cent had no opinion.
Meanwhile, the Herald Sun reports internal Liberal Party polling in key state electorates shows opposition to the deal as high as 72 per cent in some areas.
Overall the survey of more than 7600 people across eight electorates put opposition to the deal at 67.5 per cent, versus 14.4 per cent in favour – and even among Labor voters only one third were in favour.
The Andrews government blindsided Canberra in 2018 with the announcement that it had signed the state up to the Communist Party’s $1.5 trillion program, which is widely viewed as a way for the regime to project power in foreign countries by investing in large-scale infrastructure projects.
Despite the memorandum of understanding being signed, details of the deal remain vague.
Victorian Liberal senator James Paterson told the Herald Sun there was “still time for the Andrews government to see sense and dump this bad deal and back the national interest”.
Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled new legislation that would effectively tear up Victoria’s multimillion-dollar deal with Beijing by giving the federal government power to cancel any state or local government’s deal with a foreign power if it is deemed “inconsistent with federal foreign affairs policy”.
That legislation, which has the support of Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese, sparked outrage from Mr Andrews.
“Given announcements the Prime Minister’s made today, he’ll no doubt very soon be able to list the full range of other free trade agreements and other markets that we’ll be sending Victorian products to. I look forward to that,” he told reporters at his daily coronavirus press briefing.
He denied the Belt and Road Initiative was a national security threat. “No, I would never concede that point, but again foreign affairs is a matter for the federal government,” he said.
“My concern has always been to grow jobs. And I’ve always seen these arrangements and all of our arrangements, not just with any one country but with all the different countries, different states, different provinces, different regions that we have relationships with, they’ve always been about a passport to export.”
Mr Andrews said the deals had “always been about getting more Victorian produce, more Victorian products, more Victorian economic activity”.
In a leaked recording of a Zoom conference with Liberal Party members earlier this month, former Defence Minister Kevin Andrews was asked whether the Victorian Premier had committed “high treason”.
The senior Liberal MP said China posed a grave threat and “if we don’t stand up to it now it’s going to do a lot more damage to the people of China and to the rest of the world”.
“There are lots of dangers here and what Dan Andrews has done is totally unacceptable,” he said. “The Australian government is right to call it out and stop any untoward investment in Australia.”
IPA research director Daniel Wild said the Belt and Road scheme had provided the Chinese Communist Party with “significant political and economic leverage over Daniel Andrews which is a threat to our freedoms and to democracy itself”.
“Daniel Andrews so badly mismanaged Victorian infrastructure that he needed to plead to the Chinese Communist Party for financial rescue,” Mr Wild said in a statement. “The potential magnitude of Chinese Communist Party interference in Australia‘s democratic institutions is a fundamental threat to the Australian way of life and must be investigated.”
Earlier this week, the Morrison government announced a sweeping inquiry into foreign influence in the university sector.
That followed an investigation by The Australian naming dozens of the country’s leading researchers allegedly recruited to China’s secretive “Thousand Talents” research program, which the FBI has described as an economic espionage and national security threat.
“The Morrison Government demonstrated bold leadership through proposed laws that would allow the federal government to nullify deals made by state governments with foreign entities, such as Belt and Road, and committing to an inquiry into foreign interference in Australian universities,” Mr Wild said.
“Australian universities have a freedom of speech crisis, an academic freedom crisis, a funding crisis through reliance on foreign students, and they now have a crisis in terms of foreign interference from a regime which does not share Australian values.”