‘China has changed’: Albanese pushes back Keating’s criticism of Labor and Aukus

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Anthony Albanese says China has become “much more forward-looking” and this is what pushes Australia to change its foreign policy, implicitly fending off criticism from former Prime Minister Paul Keating.

On Thursday, the opposition leader avoided direct criticism of Keating – a former Labor Party who said the two main parties had strayed – but made it clear he did not share the assessment of the strategic circumstances in which the Australia is now facing.

“China has changed its position – that’s the truth,” Albanese told the Nine Network when asked to respond to Keating.

“They are much more forward-facing. Australia is right to stand up for its own values. China is the nation that has changed in terms of its attitude towards Australian imports, for example, and Australian businesses are suffering. “

Keating, who was Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996, said Beijing was “in the teenage phase of its diplomacy” and had “testosterone all over the place,” but Australia had no choice but to go. engage with an increasingly powerful China.

Picking up a mantra from his days as prime minister, Keating told the National Press Club that the Morrison government “is wrongly trying to find our safety in Asia rather than Asia.”

Keating also played down criticism of China’s militarization of contested elements in the South China Sea by saying that “the great powers are rude”, and said Australia “should not be drawn into a military engagement against Taiwan ”because the democratically ruled island of 24 million people was“ not of vital Australian interest ”.

Albanese later told reporters that he had always listened to Keating, as a respected former leader, “but Labor determines our policy for the future”.

“And it is a policy based on principles but also based on the recognition of our situation in 2021.”

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating said Australia 'got lost' in National Press Club speech - video
Former Prime Minister Paul Keating said Australia ‘got lost’ in National Press Club speech – video

Albanese’s comments are another sign that the opposition is trying to play down differences with the government over national security and foreign affairs, seeking to thwart efforts by Scott Morrison and his ministers to portray Labor as weak in the approaching elections scheduled for May.

Morrison told voters on Thursday “you really can’t trust them when it comes to these national security issues.”

Labor has backed Aukus’ partnership with the US and UK to deliver at least eight nuclear-powered submarines, based on advice that they will need to be able to travel further with less detection as they go. as the outlook in the Indo-Pacific worsens.

But Labor has also asked for assurances on concerns such as Australia’s freedom to differ from the United States on military matters.

The opposition accused Morrison of botching diplomacy around Aukus, after French President Emmanuel Macron said the prime minister lied to him about Australia’s plan to cancel the previous submarine contract conventional $ 90 billion. US President Joe Biden told Macron this was handled in an awkward way.

Over the past 18 months, as Australia’s relations with Beijing deteriorated, Labor has tended to focus on jurisdictional issues rather than broad strategic issues, accusing the Coalition of stepping up rhetoric to domestic political ends and not having an appropriate strategy to manage a more assertive China situation.

Keating argued that the foreign policy debate in Australia was now driven by “ghosts” of security agencies, and when it came to major foreign policy choices, the Coalition and Labor were “fundamentally not up to the task ”.

He said Labor spokeswoman for foreign affairs Penny Wong had opted for a “reasonably calm political life” by effectively claiming that “there should not be an ounce of light between her and the party. liberal ”on foreign policy.

Wong did not respond to the criticism, but Albanese said Labor Party policy must recognize “where we are in 2021” including “the era of strategic competition between the United States and China” .

He said he agreed with the Biden administration “that what we need is disaster-free competition” and that this would require commitment – but it also required recognition of the change in leadership. China’s external position.

Albanese said Labor foreign policy was based on three principles: “Our alliance with the United States, our engagement in our region and our support for multilateral forums.

Defense Minister Peter Dutton called the former Labor prime minister a “Great Soothing Comrade Keating”:

Morrison argued that Keating reflected the views of “a lot of people in the Labor Party”. Morrison said Keating was “certainly at odds with our government’s policy, and we certainly don’t share that view.”

Pivoting to an election message on national security, Morrison told the Nine Network: “[To] protecting Australia’s interests in our part of the world, you have to be strong. You have to be able to defend it. You have to be able to see things clearly.

Morrison said Australia wants a positive relationship with China “but at the same time we are not going to be pushed around”. He accused Albanese of “joining the Chinese government and other foreigners in attacking me the other day.”

In fact, Albanese did not endorse Beijing’s positions, but cited Macron’s accusation that Morrison lied to advance the Labor Party narrative that the prime minister could not be trusted. Albanese also criticized Morrison for the “extraordinary” decision to publish a text message he had received from Macron.

Victorian Labor MP Peter Khalil has said he does not agree with Keating’s “defeatist position”. Khalil said it was wrong to assume that the Chinese Communist Party would become a benign superpower. He argued that this was inconsistent with his behavior over the past five to ten years.

But Khalil supported concerns about submarine delivery times and said Morrison had shown “superficiality” when it came to strategic policy. “We would be very different from Keating and Morrison in government,” Khalil said.


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