'He doesn't comprehend': PM accused of dangerous China war-mongering

·News Reporter
·3-min read

The Federal Government will be accused by the Opposition of trying to seek domestic political gain by playing up the possibility of military conflict with China.

Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong will speak at a Canberra book launch on Wednesday, where she will say the Morrison government's recent public pronouncements of war in the Indo-Pacific are not only unwarranted but damaging to an already depleted Sino-Australian relationship, the ABC reported.

"My concern is that not only does he not fully comprehend Australia's interests in relation to China, he doesn't even seek to," she will say of Mr Morrison. 

"It's always about the domestic political advantage."

In an Anzac Day interview Defence Minister Peter Dutton said war in the region cannot "be discounted" while on the same day Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo told staff "the beating drums" of war were sounding louder in a nod to China.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Senator Penny Wong reacts to Senator Scott Ryan as he appears before the Additional Estimates 2020–21 Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee in the Main Committee Room at Parliament House on March 22, 2021 in Canberra, Australia. Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw has warned the Prime Minister’s probe into who knew what and when on the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins could interfere with the police investigation raising the prospect the political probe could be suspended. .  (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)
Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong is set to lambast the government's approach to the sensitive China relationship. Source: Getty

In a notable break from the usual bipartisan unity on foreign affairs and China, Labor is accusing the government of deliberately inflaming anxieties about conflict for political gain ahead of an expected national election. 

Senator Wong will say to believe such remarks were a mere coincidence would take "childlike naivety", The Australian reported.

"But it would represent a monumental and catastrophic failure of leadership to see that anxiety realised."

In the wake of the remarks last month, she warned "words matter" when it came to national security and diplomacy.

"When it comes to issues of national security, when it comes to issues of foreign policy, when it comes to issues as sensitive as Taiwan, our language should be sober and it should be cautious," Senator Wong said.

Yun Jiang, managing editor at the Australian National University's Centre on China in the World, agreed the government's increased focus on a potential conflict has been fuelled by domestic politics, CNN reported.

"Focusing on an external enemy has usually been quite effective in uniting public sentiment and rallying around the government," she said earlier this month.

"I think it's irresponsible for the government to talk it up like that. War is very serious business."

China hits out at 'undermining' Morrison government 

Zhao Lijian, one of China's foreign ministry spokespeople, previously branded sections of the Morrison government as "real troublemakers" and said public discussions of war were "extremely irresponsible".

On Tuesday, Mr Zhao was pressed on comments made by Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox, who told the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade the government's recent discourse was in stark contrast to that of Australian businesses.

Mr Zhao said the Morrison government had a rich history of provocative moves which have "severely undermined" relations.

Zhao Lijian wearing a navy suit and blue tie with glasses at a Foreign Ministry press conference.
Zhao Lijian is no stranger to criticising the Australian government. Source: FMPRC

"For quite some time, the Australian government has repeatedly made provocative and confrontational moves," he said.

Mr Zhao said the government should heed warnings from within Australia to drastically tone down its diplomatic approach. 

"We noticed that more and more visionary people in Australia expressed their concern over this, calling on the Australian government to reflect on its China policy and putting forward very valuable suggestions. 

"We hope the Australian government will face squarely the crux of the setbacks of the bilateral relations, take China's concerns seriously and heed rational voices."

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