PM’s slap down as China releases Aussie sin list


The Prime Minister has declared Australia's democracy "is not up for trade" after China issued a laundry list of sins it says Australia has committed against it, including seeking an investigation into the origin of COVID-19 and speaking up on human rights.

China claims a number of issues have damaged the trade relationship it has with Australia, ranging from rejecting Chinese bids to building the 5G network to "seriously hurting the feelings of the Chinese people".


Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also said Australia backing the inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus pandemic; speaking out about democracy in Hong Kong and human rights abuses in Xinjian; linking cyber attacks in Australia to China; and introducing foreign influence laws which he claimed "slandered" China, had also contributed to a relationship break-down between the two nations.

The list comes as China's state media lashed out at a defence deal Australian signed with Japan overnight, the Reciprocal Access Agreement, warning they will "pay a corresponding price" if Beijing's interests are infringed upon.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday morning said that Australia was not making China the enemy, but that our nation would not compromise on its national interests either.

"We will respect the decisions of other countries, but our values aren't up for trade. Our democracy is not up for trade and our sovereignty is not up for trade," he said. 

"We won't be compromising on the fact we will set what our foreign investment laws are or how we build our 5G telecommunications networks or how we run our systems protecting against interference in the way we run our country.

"I can tell you in that list you would have seen apparently the media and freely-elected politicians apparently aren't allowed to speak their mind. We won't be changing that in Australia either."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Sarah Matray
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Sarah Matray

Mr Zhao said some people in Australia had a "Cold War mentality" towards China's rise and denied Beijing had any responsibility for the increased tensions - despite increasing trade actions against the country.

"These practices have grossly interfered in China's internal affairs and seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there was "no justification" for any fear from China over the RAA in-principle agreement, which is seen as helping to counterbalance against Beijing's rise in the region.

"There's no reason for that to cause any concern elsewhere in the region. If anything, I think it adds to the stability of the region, which is a good thing," he said.

China won't gain global traction by wielding trade as a 'tool of punishment: When China engages in acts which use trade as a “tool of punishment,” it does not reflect well on the world stage, according to UTS Aust-China Relations Institute Director James Laurenceson.

He said the region benefited from China being economically involved in the Indo-Pacific, but respecting the sovereignty of Australia and other countries.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia was willing to sit down to discuss "difficult issues and differences" in the relationship but it would not "compromise at all in terms of our values, our security, our interests".

"From the Australian perspective and that the ball is very much in China's court to be willing to sit down and have that proper dialogue," he said.

He said Australia had "tried pretty much every possible or conceivable avenue" to open the door for talks with China.

In a softening of language, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Australia was ready to re-engage with "respectful, mutually beneficial dialogue".

"Both of our countries have benefited hugely from our growing trade relationship. Without this, we both lose," he said.






Originally published as PM's slap down as China releases Aussie sin list