The premier of Victoria has faced harsh criticism over his plans not to bring any Australian media with him when he heads to China on an upcoming trip.
Trade, cultural relations and education, including the return of Chinese students to Victoria, will all be at the top of the agenda for Daniel Andrews when he meets senior officials in Beijing but no journalists will be tagging along to capture the moment.
Mr Andrews defended the decision saying the four-day trip will consist of back-to-back meetings so won’t be “picture-friendly”.
But it hasn’t gone down well with Australian media.
“That’s not for him to decide and he should not get away with this at all,” Sky News Australia host Laura Jayes said on Tuesday. “A free and open, fair media is a central tenet to democracy and when you are dealing with China and you are not taking media along… that is not good enough.”
She also described the move as "really concerning".
“It’s an arrogance isn’t it,” co-host Peter Stefanovic said.
“It’s more than that Pete, it’s really concerning and quite dangerous I reckon," Jayes replied.
Bill Shorten defends Premier Andrews
The federal government was quick to dismiss any notions of transparency issues, saying it was a matter for Mr Andrews.
“I don’t know if he’s got room on a plane to bring the media,” Minister for Government Services and NDIS, Bill Shorten, told Sky News. “I’m not going to start second guessing what state politicians do with the media.”
But former Labor minister Stephen Conroy said he couldn’t “remember the last time a leader didn’t want to take media with them on any trip, anywhere”.
“I don’t think he’s got anything to hide which is why I think that transparency is always a better way to go forward in trying to deal with the media,” he told the news outlet
Premier questioned over seventh trip to China in eight years
Meanwhile, questions have been raised over the number of times the premier has visited China.
Since 2015, he’s made the trip on seven different occasions.
“I think he’s been to China more times than he’s visited Warrnambool in my electorate in western Victoria,” shadow immigration minister Dan Tehan told Sky News, adding that Mr Andrews needs to explain what his purpose is, why he is going and what outcomes he is seeking to achieve on this “secret trip”.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.