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Australia: Scott Morrison slams Victorian Premier over secret deal with China

NOVEMBER 7, 201812:36pm

Victoria Govt criticised for 'One Belt, One Road' pledge

DANIEL Andrews is copping flack from the Prime Minister and his own party over a secret deal he forged with China — but not everyone is against it.

Victoria is now the first and only state to get on board with President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), after the Premier finalised a deal with the Chinese ambassador to Australia on October 25.

The Prime Minister lashed out at the Premier, saying foreign policy is the Commonwealth’s domain and that Mr Andrews should have checked with him first.

“I mean, I’d like to give him a few tips on how he should be running his police force down there, because if you’re living in Victoria, he hasn’t been doing a pretty crash hot job on that,” Mr Morrison told Sydney radio station 2GB. “If he wants to start going over each other’s lines and giving advice about how we should run each other’s shows, how about having a police force in Victoria like the one we have in NSW?

“That might do a lot to give safety to people in Victoria.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lashed out at Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews over a secret deal he forged with China. Picture: AAP Image/Dan PeledSource:AAP

The PM said Australia had for years maintained a consistent policy on the Belt and Road Initiative, and did not have a memorandum of understanding with China on the global infrastructure project.

He said when things like the Victorian deal happen, it “creates mixed messages”.

Yesterday, Mr Morrison told reporters he was “surprised” by the move, accusing Mr Andrews of not including the Federal Government in his decision.

“I was surprised that the Victorian Government went into that arrangement without any discussions with the Commonwealth Government at all,” he said. “They know full well our policy on those issues and I thought that was not a very cooperative or helpful way to do things on such issues.”

But Mr Morrison’s colleagues don’t agree with him.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne noted that, while her department had not been consulted about the deal, she was supportive of it.

“We encourage the states and territories to expand opportunities with China,” she told ABC radio.

Mr Andrews pointed to comments from federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham that also welcomed the deal.

He said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was involved in the drafting “all the way through”.

“I understood that the (federal) Trade Minister who is in China at the moment thought that it was a fantastic deal,” he said.

“Maybe the latest Prime Minister needs to get a briefing from DFAT as well … They’re all a bit confused up there (in Canberra), aren’t they?”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is refusing to release details of the confidential deal, telling reporters such things are usually not released. Picture: AAP Image/Valeriu CampanSource:AAP

Mr Andrews is refusing to release details of the confidential deal, telling reporters such things are usually not released.

But a number of federal Labor MPs have also expressed their concerns, telling The Australian they were astonished by the Andrews Government’s decision.

“In the Pacific we know there are going to be concerns about some of the (BRI) loans and what China might take if the country can’t repay its loans,” one said.

“It is easy for Daniel to do ­because at the end of the day he can afford to be selfish about this because he is not going to have to look after the national interest.”

Another criticised the deal in light of China’s poor human rights record.

There are 17 days to go until the Victorian state election on November 24.

The Belt and Road initiative is a trillion-dollar project that seeks to connect countries across continents on trade, with China at its centre.

The ambitious plan involves creating a 6000km sea route connecting China to South-East Asia, Oceania and North Africa (the “Road”), as well as through building railway and road infrastructure to connect China with Central and West Asia, the Middle East and Europe (the “Belt”).

Earlier this year, it was reported that Papua New Guinea would be the second country in the Pacific to sign on to the initiative, sparking fears China is increasing its presence in the region.

— with wires


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