Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Questions without Notice
Ms Rebiya Kadeer
I thank the shadow minister for her question. Her question no doubt arises as a result of the report on the front page of today’s Australian newspaper, a primary source for her. Can I make a number of points. The Chinese authorities at a range of levels, including my counterpart, Foreign Minister Yang, made very strong representations to Australia about the proposed visit to Australia of Rebiya Kadeer and made representations to us that we should prevent her visit. I considered those representations and came to the conclusion that there was no basis for denying her entry to Australia. As a consequence of Australia granting her a visa for the third occasion that she had visited Australia in her private capacity, the Chinese authorities made it very clear to Australian officials that they were most unhappy with her visit. As a consequence of her visit, they indicated to Australia that the proposed visit to Australia of Vice-Minister He to attend the Pacific Islands Forum Post-Forum Dialogue would not occur. They indicated that China would be represented by an ambassador and that, as a consequence of Vice-Minister He not attending the Pacific Islands Forum Post-Forum Dialogue, the proposed and scheduled senior officials’ meeting between Australia and China would not—
I again refer to comments made in House of Representatives Practice about whether people think that they can predict the specificity of the answer. I have listened carefully to the response from the Minister for Foreign Affairs; he is responding to the question. If those in the chamber would listen carefully to the totality of the answer they could then make a summation. I cannot ask that the foreign minister give a yes/no, ABC answer. Sometimes it may take a master’s thesis to answer. So the foreign minister is giving a thorough answer.
I was asked a question about a very important relationship that Australia has with China and I am proposing to answer it. As a consequence of Vice-Minister He not attending the Pacific Islands Forum Post-Forum Dialogue, the senior officials’ meeting between Australia and China would also not take place. Both of those actions on the part of Chinese authorities were said by Australian officials to be a direct consequence of, and a direct response to, Australia’s decision to allow Rebiya Kadeer to enter Australia—as a direct result of my decision not to interfere with our usual and normal immigration processes. When I made that decision, I indicated to China that Australia of course respected the territorial sovereignty and integrity of China over the western provinces.
Australia very much regrets that China has decided to effect that response. Whether China proposes to effect any further responses as a result of our decision to allow Rebiya Kadeer to enter Australia is entirely a matter for the exercise of China’s discretion. If China does take further action as a result of us allowing Rebiya Kadeer to come to Australia, we will of course regret that. But the basis of the Australian government’s decision is this: we have a longstanding productive economic relationship with China. That relationship started with the decision by the Whitlam government in 1973 to recognise China’s one-China policy. Since that time it has grown, starting with minerals and petroleum resources from my own state of Western Australia, to a much more general, broad based relationship. From time to time in any bilateral relationship there will be difficulties. These difficulties need to be managed carefully and successfully, as Australia is currently managing difficulties that we have in our relationship with China—in particular, the visit of Rebiya Kadeer to Australia and the Stern Hu case.
I make this final point: if China takes any further action in response to our decision, that will be for us a matter of regret. But we will deal with that matter sensibly, and we will not resort to the flip-flop politicking that the opposition makes of our relationship with China. I vaguely remember the Leader of the Opposition saying to the government some time ago that we should stand up to China. We did on the Rebiya Kadeer issue.