Tony Abbott hailed China’s President Xi Jinping as a true friend and welcomed Australia’s trade boom with China. Should he be expelled? When NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane publicly supported China, Scott Morrison and Gladys Berejiklian destroyed his political career.
In April 2014, Prime Minister Tony Abbott gave the principal speech at China’s Boao Forum held on the luxury resort island of Hainan. “It’s an honour to address this Boao Forum, which now rivals Europe’s long-running Davos Forum, and which does so much to showcase the Asia-Pacific region,” Abbott began.
“I am accompanied by the Foreign Minister, the Trade Minister, five State Premiers, one Chief Minister, and 30 of my country’s most senior chairmen and CEOs. It’s one of the most important delegations ever to leave Australia. What better way could there be to demonstrate that Australia is open for business?
“Team Australia is here in China to help build the Asian Century. China, after all, has taken to heart Deng Xiaoping’s advice that ‘to get rich is glorious’. And China should be richer still. To be rich is indeed glorious – but to be a true friend is sublime.
“Australia is not in China to do a deal, but to be a friend. We don’t just visit because we need to, but because we want to. Participation in this Forum has helped to build Australia’s strategic partnership with China which has so much to offer each country and our region.”
Michael Stutchbury, then editor of The Australian Financial Review, was a central member of Abbott’s cheer squad. “While Australian political and business leaders are badly under-represented at Davos, they are crawling all over Boao,” the crawling expert wrote. “For the past eight years, the Australian presence has been led by Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group, one of Boao’s top corporate sponsors (and which hosted my visit to the Forum).”
Late in 2014, President Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China, and commander-in-chief of the Military Commission, was invited by Prime Minister Abbott to address a joint session of Federal Parliament in Canberra.
At a press conference, Abbott said: “It is an honour to be standing beside President Xi here in the main committee room of the Australian national parliament. I would like to congratulate President Xi on the speech that he has given to our Parliament. I think we have heard from the President of China a speech that will be studied and analysed for weeks and months and years to come. I think we’ve heard from the President a speech of historical significance.
“We’ve had a State Luncheon at Yarralumla with the Governor-General. We’ve had the historic address to the House of Representatives with Senators in attendance. I want to say just a little bit about the free trade negotiations. First of all, I want to say that this is a very good day for both our countries. In particular, it’s a very good day for Australia. It’s the most comprehensive agreement that China has concluded with anyone. It opens the doors to Australia and it opens the doors to China. I’ve said repeatedly that Australia is ‘open for business’ and the Foreign Investment Review Board screening threshold for private businesses will increase from $248 million to over $1 billion in most areas. This has been a 10-year journey but we have finally made it and we will both see – both our countries will see – the benefits flow through in the years ahead. It is, as I said at the beginning, a good day for Australia, a good day for China, a good day for consumers in both our countries and ultimately a good day for workers in both our countries. Our defence co-operation, our people-to-people links – that has been an absolutely marvellous visit.
“But, truly, no Chinese leader has ever been anything like such a good friend to Australia and we are so honoured to have you here in our country.”
In his reply, President Xi welcomed Abbott’s commitment “to upgrade our strategic partnership to a comprehensive partnership, thus charting the new course for the future growth of our relationship”.
Speaking off-the-cuff, China’s ruler said: “As the Chinese saying goes, ‘It takes 10 years to sharpen a sword’, so we are so glad to see that after nearly 10 years of negotiation our two sides have announced the substantive conclusion to the bilateral Free Trade Agreement negotiation.”
Then, with the advent of another Liberal Party PM, Scott Morrison, everything changed. The policy of “constructive engagement” with the world’s newest Super Power was junked. It was replaced by a policy to thwart China’s emergence as No 1 on the world stage. Regional allies in the Far East and Pacific were recruited to join a policy of provocation, belligerence, economic and military encirclement, trade embargoes and tariff wars.
Australia was caught in the cross-hairs of its decades-long opportunism when all the economic advantages of good relations with Beijing were matched by silence on misgivings about Chinese communism, human rights violations and one-party rule.
As a loyal servant of Washington, Scott Morrison has shifted to the right of Tony Abbott and joined the US-led war party against China. The applause from Canberra’s militarist lobby, led by Peter Jennings, Liberal Party time-server and head of the laughable Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and from Rupert Murdoch’s media has been deafening: they love a good war!
Morrison has turned Australia into a permanent base for US marines, warplanes and warships and found $270 billion to spend on the military. At a stroke, he’s ripped up Australia’s previous guarded friendship with China. Will China see these developments other than as acts of aggression, and how will it respond?