Prime Minister Scott Morrison is currently visiting Fiji on a diplomatic mission over two days. (AAP: David Mariuz)
The Prime Minister has sought to downplay China’s criticism of his Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who accused the Chinese Communist Party of behaving in ways “inconsistent” with Australian values.
- Mr Morrison said Mr Dutton’s comments “simply reflect the fact we’re two different countries”
- China’s Foreign Ministry said “we hope that the relevant people on the Australian side can abandon the Cold War mentality”
- Mr Morrison insisted the relationship between China and Australia would remain positive
In some of the strongest language yet from a government minister on the threat posed by China, Mr Dutton warned Australia would still “call out” foreign interference in universities, as well as cyber hacks and intellectual property theft.
“Our issue is not with the Chinese people, not with the amazing Chinese diaspora community we have here in Australia, my issue is with the Communist Party of China and their policies to the extent that they’re inconsistent with our own values,” Mr Dutton said.
The comments immediately drew anger from China, however speaking from Fiji, the Prime Minister said Mr Dutton was just pointing out obvious distinctions between the two nations.
“What Peter was talking about is that there are differences between Australia and the People’s Republic of China, of course there are,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s anything terribly surprising about that, so I would warn against any sort of over-analysis or overreaction to those comments, because I think they just simply reflect the fact we’re two different countries.
“I tend not to overreact to statements, I think I’ll just look at the context in which the Minister made his comments.”
Mr Morrison insisted the relationship between both countries would remain positive.
“There are many countries in our regions that have different systems,” he said.
“China will do what they do in their country, and we respect that too.”
China calls on Australia to ‘abandon Cold War mentality’
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Mr Dutton’s comments echoed a “Cold War mentality”. (Supplied: Chinese Foreign Ministry, file)
However, China has accused Mr Dutton of harming the mutual trust between the two countries with his “malicious slur”.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China did not intervene in the affairs of other nations.
“We hope that the relevant people on the Australian side can abandon the Cold War mentality,” he said.
The Chinese embassy in Canberra released a statement describing the “irrational accusations” as “shocking and baseless”.
“We strongly condemn his malicious slur on the Communist Party of China, which constitutes an outright provocation to the Chinese people.”
Coalition has ‘botched relationship’ with China: Labor
Labor MP Peter Khalil declared Mr Dutton was “clumsily talking tough”.
“There’s something called diplomacy, there’s something called diplomatic language,” he said.
“Frankly, this Coalition Government has absolutely botched the relationship with China.”
Crossbench Senator Rex Patrick said the comments marked a “significant shift in Australia-China relations”.
“Minister Dutton has clearly decided to push the Morrison Government towards a much more hard-line approach to relations with Communist China,” Senator Patrick said.
“While a more robust approach is desirable in light of China’s behaviour, one must wonder about Mr Dutton’s motivation and whether his diplomatic skills, such as they are, may be up to the task.”
However, Immigration Minister David Coleman and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg agreed that in many cases China’s values were inconsistent with Australia’s.
“Australia and China have very different political systems and that’s abundantly clear,” Mr Frydenberg said.