The Morrison government has notched up a significant win in reaching a deal with Facebook over its world-first Big Tech news laws. The Australian government will be seen to have taken on a multinational titan and won. That’s the first global bully dealt with. There’s still Australia’s standoff with China.
The communist giant has been trying to force Australia to toe the Beijing line on everything from the origins of the Wuhan plague to the ongoing brutalisation of Hong Kong and the genocide in Xinjiang. Thus far, to its credit, the Morrison government has shown admirable fortitude in resisting Xi Xinping’s bludgeoning.
One of the key “14 Grievances” China has lodged against Australia is its foreign interference laws, which clearly aim to curtail Beijing’s network of subversion and surreptitious influence in Australia. Far from backing down, the Morrison government is preparing to go ahead with the most spectacular use of the laws to date.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ controversial Belt and Road deal with the Chinese government is expected to be torn up by Prime Minister Scott Morrison within weeks.
The Andrews government blindsided Canberra in 2018 with the announcement that it had signed a memorandum of understanding to take part in the $1.5 trillion infrastructure program, which is widely viewed as a global power play by Chinese Communist Party and a national security threat.
Andrews had already been warned by the federal government and security against signing on to the BRI. Going ahead and doing so anyway was a shocking act of reckless political bastardry to equal the Northern Territory government’s astonishing decision to lease the Port of Darwin to a Chinese company for 99 years. This is Beijing’s standard modus operandi when dealing with less-than-servile national governments: go behind their backs and cut deals with greedy, feckless local panjandrums.
The Morrison government is having none of it.
Mr Morrison introduced new laws last year giving the Federal Government power to tear up any state or local government deal with a foreign power if it is deemed “inconsistent with federal foreign affairs policy”.
Speaking to the Herald Sun, the PM said while he would not “pre-empt” that process – which gives states until March 10 to inform the Commonwealth of their deals with foreign governments – he had not seen any advantage from the arrangement.
“I haven’t seen the benefits of it,” Mr Morrison said. “If there are benefits, what are they and what was paid for them?”
More importantly, Morrison is reasserting that it is up to the commonwealth to run foreign affairs, not jumped-up little dictators in the state capitals.
He added that federal policy would determine foreign relations. “That’s a very important principle,” he said. “There has to be consistency when national governments deal with other national governments”[…]
Polling conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs think tank found the majority of Victorians wanted the state to pull out of the controversial scheme, with even Labor voters strongly opposed.
Meanwhile, “Dictator Dan” continues to assiduously kow-tow to his master in Beijing.
Pressed by reporters at the time, Mr Andrews refused to concede the Belt and Road Initiative was a national security threat. “No, I would never concede that point, but again foreign affairs is a matter for the Federal Government,” he said.
Late last year, as relations plunged to new lows after a Chinese diplomat posted a doctored photo of an Australian soldier holding a knife to an Afghan child’s throat, Mr Andrews continued to stand firm on the agreement.
“No,” he said, when asked by reporters whether he would turn his back on the deal given the latest outrage[…]
Mr Andrews’ position put him at odds with his federal Labor counterparts, who had expressed concern about Victoria’s decision to join Belt and Road. Opposition leader Anthony Albanese last year said he was “very supportive” of the foreign relations laws and that federal Labor had shifted to oppose signing up to the scheme due to the CCP’s growing “interventionist” behaviour in recent years.News.com.au
Given federal Labor’s frequently compromised position vis-a-vis China, when even federal leader Albanese is telling Andrews to pull his head in, even the Victorian premier ought to be able to see that he’s on a hiding to nothing by slavishly kissing Xi’s boots.
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