Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Visit of the Vice President of the People’S Republic of China
- That the Senate—
- welcomes Xi Jinping, Vice President of the Peoples’ Republic of China;
- acknowledges the continuing concerns of the Australian people over human rights in China and Tibet; and
- expresses its hopes for a productive visit, including a frank and wide-ranging dialogue on matters of concern to both China and Australia.
The Australian government does not support this motion. As has been stated on previous occasions, the government objects to using formal motions to deal with complex international matters, particularly those involving other governments. The visit of the Vice President is indeed an important event in the Australia-China bilateral relationship. The Vice President has important responsibilities within China’s political structure and is likely to play an even more significant role in China’s leadership after the next congress of the Chinese Communist Party, scheduled for late 2012. The Australia-China bilateral relationship is a comprehensive and important one for both countries. It encompasses a range of mutual interests, which include substantial economic, political and strategic interests. It also encompasses issues where we have concerns.
The government raises those issues where there are differences of view, including those on human rights, and deals with them in a forthright and constructive manner through frank exchange and dialogue. Our concern over human rights issues in China, including in Tibet, were raised with the Vice President on Monday, I am advised, during his visit to Canberra. As the foreign affairs minister said yesterday:
A productive relationship with China, based on mutual interest and mutual respect, is unambiguously in Australia’s national interest.
The government are committed to advancing the full range of Australia’s national interests with China in every dimension, covering trade and investment, political dialogue, cooperation in regional and global affairs, strategic engagement, educational exchanges and cultural ties and including the views held by the Australian government and our community about political and developmental issues in China itself, but we do not support this motion, which is unbalanced in focusing on only one aspect of this important and multifaceted relationship.
Having heard those comments by the minister quite a number of times now, I would like to note that we were in quite constructive discussions with the minister’s office over these motions. Minister, it is not that you do not like foreign policy motions going through the chamber; the ones you do not like are the ones you do not like being dealt with in this fashion through the chamber. It is not appropriate to go into the details of why negotiations fell down, but suffice to say that had we been able to come to an agreement with the government they would have waved this through. I do not understand why it is that we are continually treated to this lecture about not wanting to deal with matters in this way.
What is it exactly about expressing ‘hopes for a productive visit, including a frank and wide-ranging dialogue on matters of concern to both China and Australia’ that is offensive to all the senators sitting on this side of the chamber? I simply do not understand it and I think in a way it signals the Australian government’s view that Chinese governments are somehow immature and not able to hear these kinds of comments or accept these points of view. Welcoming the Vice President of the People’s Republic of China in a motion is somehow a complex and nuanced foreign-policy position.
Part (b) of the motion ‘acknowledges the continuing concerns of the Australian people over human rights in China and Tibet’, which the minister has just stood up and told the chamber were actually raised with the Vice President when he was here. That is the entire motion, and for some reason we have the entire chamber, apart from the Greens and perhaps the crossbenchers, about to vote against a motion that is no more or less than a statement of the obvious, welcoming the Vice President to Australia. It is somewhat unbelievable that the Australian government does not see fit simply to allow this motion to proceed. I should alert the Senate that I have another, similar motion.