SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

SENATOR KIMBERLEY KITCHING

CHAIR OF SENATE FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE REFERENCES COMMITTEE

DEPUTY MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS IN THE SENATE

SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY

LABOR SENATOR FOR VICTORIA

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

6 September 2019

ENGAGING THE PARLIAMENT ON CHINA

Labor has reiterated its request for a detailed and comprehensive briefing for parliamentarians on Australia’s relationship with China.

Last month, Labor wrote to the Foreign Minister requesting that relevant agencies, such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Office of National Intelligence, provide a detailed and comprehensive briefing for parliamentarians on Australia’s relationship with China.

Labor has not received a response, but recent events have only emphasised that Australia’s relationship with China is complex and consequential – and getting more so.

China is, and will continue to be, of great importance to Australia, the region and the world.

The key question for Australia is: how do we best make the relationship work for us?

It is obvious there is a strong interest in the management of Australia’s relationship with China among members and senators. There have been many expressions of this interest, including a current proposal for a Senate inquiry. Labor notes the Government will not be supporting an inquiry.

Labor believes that the call for an inquiry reflects the broader desire among parliamentarians to be better briefed on the points of convergence and the points of divergence in Australia’s relationship with China.

It is reasonable and appropriate for parliamentarians to want assurance that our national interest is being served – and access to quality briefing is critical in constructive parliamentary engagement.

In the interests of a calm and mature debate, and the hope of promoting a bipartisan approach to the relationship, Labor has formally reiterated its request for a comprehensive briefing, and has determined that the proposed inquiry is not the best approach to the discussion at this time.

Labor is also establishing Caucus processes for engagement on this subject, because Labor believes it is the job of all parliamentarians to protect and advance the national interest.

The national interest is best served by a bipartisan approach to the relationship. This does not mean uncritical support for the Government’s approach.

Rather, it means having a sensible, calm and mature discussion without seeking to exploit complexities in the China relationship for political advantage.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.