Shadow Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews says it's "disappointing" the Albanese government has been unable to secure one-on-one trade talks with China – despite her government failing to do so for well over two years.
Ms Andrews, the home affairs minister under former prime minister Scott Morrison, appeared on ABC's Afternoon Briefing on Wednesday, revealing her reservations about a meeting pencilled in for Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Bali.
"I would be very, very clear, in any meeting that I had, that our national security interests were paramount here in Australia, and we needed to make sure that we were doing everything to protect our national interests," she told host Greg Jennett.
"It was disappointing that the trade minister (Don Farrell) was unable to secure a meeting with his counterpart... trade is particularly important here."
Sino-Australian relations rapidly deteriorated in 2020 under the Morrison government, with China blaming Mr Morrison's calls for a Covid origins investigation, the banning of Chinese investment and 5G technologies as well as several accusations of interfering in "internal matters".
China retaliated by slapping Australia with several trade sanctions, however former trade minister Simon Birmingham, and then his successor Dan Tehan, were unable to get their Beijing counterpart on the phone to work through their disagreements.
China refused to negotiate with the Coalition in what was a lengthy diplomatic freeze and were repeatedly enraged by Mr Morrison's robust stance on multiple issues. Former defence minister Peter Dutton's 'hyping' of China's threat only damaged the relationship further.
The Albanese government has since ended the diplomatic shutout, with Defence Minister Richard Marles meeting with China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe last month.
Beijing has appeared to offer the Albanese government an olive branch, indicating it is open to a diplomatic reset. China has stressed however it would take "concrete actions" from Canberra for relations to improve.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has began his tenure with strong stance against Beijing, much to the anger of Chinese state media who have criticised Canberra for its relationship with the US.
Ms Andrews' appearance on Afternoon Briefing faced criticism on Twitter, with some suggesting her views were irrelevant.
"Who cares what opposition (MP) Karen Andrews thinks about China! They buggered the relationship!" one asked.
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