Wednesday, 16 June 2021
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee; Reference
As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I note that this is the seventh time that this motion or a similar motion has been moved. I thank Senator Lambie and, before her, Senator Patrick for moving similar motions. I want to make it clear that the Chinese people have a long and overwhelmingly positive relationship with Australia, starting in the early days on our soil before our nation was even born. From Cape York to Victoria, the Chinese people have contributed marvellously, and I've welcomed their ongoing contribution on our shores without influence from the Chinese Communist Party.
There have been many apparent conflicts of interest raised publicly between Chinese officials, including Chinese Communist Party officials and Labor MPs and between Chinese Communist Party officials and Liberals MPs and officials. Despite this, on every occasion, the Liberal Nationals and Labor senators have combined to jointly oppose this inquiry and its predecessors into the China-Australia relationship. I won't list all the many items that we have raised in the past to justify this inquiry and I won't go through them yet again; I will cover some new material. We have supported this motion in the past and we'll continue to do so until we get what the Australian people need and want.
What have both the tired old parties got to hide? Why are they putting their interests ahead of our national interest, especially because, in recent years, the Australia-China relationship—or, should I say, the Australia-Chinese Communist Party relationship—has undergone significant adjustments? It was only this week that, based on advice from the Director-General of Security, Mr Mike Burgess, the CSIRO announced that it would not renew an oceans research collaboration with the Chinese Qingdao National Marine Laboratory—which has strong military links—following an ASIO warning that the joint project could help Chinese navy operations against Australian submarines. It was during the March 2020 estimates that I raised the alarm about this danger with Mr Burgess, who responded that he was not aware of that particular research at the time of questioning. This week's response has taken 15 months to take effect.
It's apparent that these actions are designed to minimise the extensive intrusion into Australia's sovereignty that the totalitarian Chinese Communist Party government has achieved to date. Never before has the demonstrably anti-freedom, totalitarian Chinese Communist Party government flexed its muscles more than the posturing occurring today. The Chinese Communist Party has never been more active in the areas of expansionism and neo-colonialism in the economic sphere and in military realms, sometimes in the guise of building friendships with less affluent or emerging countries, as part of the Chinese Belt and Road regime. Some describe this intrusion as assaults on the sovereignty of countries. One Nation and I agree with that view.
When China was a Third World country, Australia was a willing neighbour in helping China to develop and grow. Even though much of China remains Third World, with poverty and food shortages, minimal human rights and with a massive population, despite this, and with advanced industrialisation and significant economic power, China is now approaching economic superpower status with a massive defence capability challenging the already established other superpowers.
A reasonable country would harness its abilities to assist the advancement of its people. Unfortunately, the Chinese Communist Party has taken an entirely different approach. It has taken an expansionist path that's creating tensions in the delicate balance between countries. That now threatens international relationships both economically and by way of military threat, to the smaller and even large countries around it. The path includes bullying tactics, economic threats and threats of direct military intervention when any country objects to the Communist Party's tactics on the world stage. We simply need to look at Chinese President Xi's statement directed towards Australia and the economic decisions his government makes with the intent to punish Australia for having called out the Chinese Communist Party on subjects including the source of the China virus, COVID-19, or the Chinese Communist Party's poor human rights record in persecuting the Uighurs and putting the whole nation of Tibet under house arrest. The Chinese Communist Party's economic retaliation against Australia as payback was swift. Brazenly, the Chinese government announced to the world that their economic retaliation against Australia was payback for calling for the inquiry into the source of the world's current virus crisis. China is now widely accepted as the source.
These acts are examples showing that the Chinese Communist Party still have a long way to go before being recognised as leaders of a genuine superpower. This is what the Chinese Communist Party craves: positive recognition as a genuine world power capable of performing a responsible leadership role. If the best that the Chinese Communist Party can do is to be considered a world-class bully, that's not much of a goal, and history shows that bullies always get what's coming to them in the end.
Australia is finally waking up to the Chinese Communist Party's overall plan. With the tightening of Australian national security concerns, the cancelling of the Belt and Road contract between Victoria and the Chinese Communist Party and the strengthening of ties with like-minded democratic countries, Australia is making headway in responding to the less-than-veiled threats from the Chinese Communist Party. In addition to the CSIRO's assistance to the Chinese Communist Party agency, I referred to the widespread Chinese ownership of prime Australian land and key strategic assets. The impact of Chinese influence in our universities and communities is yet to be fully considered. The Chinese Communist Party actively attempts to influence its students to not enrol in Australian universities, suggesting that the students would be at risk of discrimination. The placing of trade restrictions on the import of Australian produce, including a massive excise duty on barley, was said to be specifically aimed at damaging the export market for barley as a punishment aimed at Australian trade. Fortunately, Australian farmers are resilient and they've found new markets. But that was some stress that they could have done without.
I would hope that the Australian government continues to wind back more of these arrangements with the Chinese Communist Party that do not support Australian values. The Australian relationship with the Chinese Communist Party government will only improve when the Chinese Communist Party acts as a good neighbour and turns away from its existing destructive policies. It's beyond time to have an inquiry into the development of Australia's relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.
I welcome, as I said, the ongoing contribution of the Chinese people on our shores, but without the influence from the Chinese Communist Party. We need to restore freedoms in our country and restore our national sovereignty. We need to protect our country. We need an inquiry into the China-Australia relationship.