• 12:57 PM
  • Tuesday
  • July 27, 2021
17 June 2020

It is very hard to see where Australia’s trade tensions with China will lead the relationship. We had a couple of weeks where the government steered clear of COVID-19 related commentary on China and the rogue government backbenchers kept quiet.

In the past week the activities of the so-called Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China have ramped up with the Australian charge being led by, Afghanistan War veteran, Andrew Hastie MP.

On his role in that war, the former SAS troop leader was quoted as saying “Our job [Australian Army] pretty much was the stick.”

This alliance boasts 20 members and about 80 supporters who are members of various parliaments around. That’s 20 conscripts from 11 legislatures, whose total membership numbers 4,227.

So this much publicised group has enlisted 0.4% of the parliamentarians, in the nations from which it draws its membership. It’s grabbed plenty of media coverage, without any questions about its membership or legitimacy.

This group has a website and ZERO transparency. It has no address, no phone number, no clear record of incorporation as a business or otherwise; only two generic email address and a private domain name, whose ownership is hidden behind a Canadian registry, NameSilo LLC.

It is perfectly reasonable that nations like Australia question China’s role as a regional and global power. However, if those questions are being raised by conflicted, secretive and murky alliances it does not help promote trust and understanding.
10 June 2020

After a couple weeks where it seemed China-Australia dialogue was directed towards the sensible domain of diplomats, China has now cautioned both tourists and students about coming to Australia.

Their warnings are based on increased levels of racism against Chinese-Australians, the Australian government has flatly rejected that notion. They’ve not been supported by Labor or the Greens in that assertion.

As usual the Australian media – and the Chinese – failed to search the record. On February the 5th Prime Minister Scott Morrison explicitly singled out racist attacks on Chinese-Australians calling them “reprehensible”. So this government, like every government anywhere in the world, only acknowledges facts when it serves a purpose.

Chinese people are not in peril in Australia but they have been the victims of racism – almost 400 incidents reported to the Asian Australian Alliance, homes and cars have been vandalised, a female Chinese student was savagely beaten on the streets of Melbourne and police have made arrests in relations to threats and attacks against Chinese-Australians.

The Chinese warnings come with provocation, a very highly publicised virtual summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, comes at a time when India-China relations are at a low point. At a diplomatic level this was a none too subtle slap in the face to China.

On the one hand it is a nation of 1.3 billion people at odds with a nation of 1.4 billion people, on the other it was 25 million versus 1.4 billion. One has to asks whose purposes are better served by the rhetoric?

Two-way trade with India is less than 10% of trade with China and a federal government report in 2018 cited education as one of the top trade opportunities with India. This smacks of replacing one trade problem with the same problem!

Deeper economic ties with India are a good thing; but India is possibly decades away from making up the shortfall if we abandon China.

The other prod Canberra gave to Beijing was the announcement of a tighter controls on foreign investment and heightened national security tests for foreign government-owned enterprises.

This announcement was not made by the Treasurer, who has responsibility for such matters, it was made by the prime minister. A clear point was made at the announcement that a one-time spy (former ASIO chief David Irvine) heads up Australia’s foreign investment review process.  

Against this backdrop, of the Chinese foreign investment threat to Australia, came figures yesterday in the KPMG/Sydney University, Demystifying Chinese Investment report. It shows Chinese investment dropped by 60% last year. And that downward trend is set to continue.