Victoria: is Premier Andrews working for Communist China?
The Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China has a new poster boy.
That is a question even his Labor colleagues must be asking. Also asking more questions should be our national security agencies who have already said the immigration and defence departments were among those opposed to Beijing’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” initiative, firmly advising the then Turnbull Government earlier this year not to join it as it was a controversial trillion-dollar push by China to further dominate global trade.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has defended his government’s decision to strike a secret deal with China to enhance trade and investment, saying such agreements were always done that way. In October the Andrews government announced it had struck a memorandum of understanding with China to become part of its “Belt and Road” program. Beijing’s initiative, which includes a range of ambitious infrastructure projects across Europe, Asia and the Pacific, has sparked concerns in some quarters of an undue expansion of China’s global influence. Asked why the memorandum needed to be secret, Mr Andrews said “that’s the way these things work”.
Source: Fairfax Media
Andrews, Morrisson at odds over Victoria’s secret Chinese trade deal
“That’s the way all memorandums of understanding work and we’re not about the change that policy,” he said.
In July, the Turnbull government refused to release an agreement it had signed with China covering the controversial program on the grounds Beijing does not want it made public.
But other memorandums of understanding are publicly available.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has attacked the Victorian government for signing the arrangement without consulting Canberra.
“I was surprised that the Victorian government went into that arrangement without any discussions with the Commonwealth government at all,” he said on Tuesday from his Queensland tour.
“They’re the responsibilities of the Commonwealth government and I would have hoped that the Victorian government would have taken a more co-operative approach to that process.”
But Mr Andrews said the Prime Minister’s intervention put him at odds with his own Trade Minister Simon Birmingham who had spoken positively about the deal.
“I understood that the trade minister who is in China at the moment thought it was a fantastic deal,” Mr Andrews said. “The latest Prime Minister should talk to the latest trade minister about their policies.”
Mr Birmingham said in Shanghai on Tuesday that Victoria’s Belt and Road Initiative agreement with China was for Victoria to discuss, and that the federal government encouraged infrastructure building across the region.
Foreign Affairs ministry opts for secrecy over China infrastructure agreement
“We do consistently remind people to make sure that engagement is constructive and that it respects the sovereignty of third-party nations where investment might be occurring and is sustainable for those nations.”
Mr Birmingham was asked if the federal government would release the terms of the MOU signed last year between the federal government and China on co-operation on BRI projects in third countries, but replied that China hadn’t agreed for it to be disclosed.
“Convention dictates they are only released where both parties agree for them to be released and that is not the case in terms of Australia’s agreement.”
Last month Mr Andrews announced he had finalised a deal with Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye for Victoria to be the first and only state to reach an agreement on the initiative.
It is not known how the China deal would contribute to the Andrews government’s ambitious infrastructure program, which has more than $100 billion worth of projects on its “to do” list.
At the time Mr Andrews said the deal would mean more trade, jobs and investment for Victoria.
“In four years we have more than tripled Victoria’s share of Chinese investment in Australia and nearly doubled our exports to China,” he said in October.
Controversy over the deal erupted again on Tuesday when Nine’s political editor Chris Uhlmann published a column entitled ‘One secret China deal, two deceptive Victorian Government sentences’ slamming the Andrews government for refusing to make the details public.
Mr Morrison will come down to Victoria and campaign with Matthew Guy for the first time next week, as early voting begins.