Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick today confirmed that he will renew his push to establish a wide-ranging Senate Committee inquiry on Australia’s relations with China.
"In light of political developments this week, I am more determined than ever to press for a comprehensive parliamentary review of Australia’s relations with China," Senator Patrick said.
"This is a vital relationship and the Parliament urgently needs to undertake a most rigorous inquiry to see how we can maximise benefit from a mutually beneficial trading relationship, but equally gain an understanding of where caution is warranted in Australia’s national interest."
On Monday the Coalition Government and Labor Opposition joined together in an extraordinary and worrying instance of political self-censorship to block Centre Alliance’s proposal that the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (FADT) References Committee conduct a holistic review of Australia’s relations with China.
"Labor justified its position on the grounds that the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Penny Wong, had requested briefings for parliamentarians by relevant government agencies on Australia's relationship with China, and such an behind closed doors approach was apparently preferred."
"Yesterday the Foreign Minister, Senator Marise Payne, gave the Government’s response, telling the Senate there will be no government agency briefings on China as requested by Labor, though she also noted that ‘the foreign affairs, defence and trade committees’ may receive ‘extensive briefings’ from agencies."
"In these circumstances, the Labor Opposition would be well advised to embrace Centre Alliance’s proposed Senate inquiry," Senator Patrick said, "and I have lodged a new motion for debate when Parliament sits next week."
"The proposed inquiry would be chaired by the FADT References Committee chairperson, Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching. It would provide a much-needed forum for a comprehensive and sober discussion of this hugely important relationship, and involve the full range of expertise and interests from within and outside the Australian Government. While government agency briefings are important, they are only part of the wide range of information and views a Senate inquiry may consider."
"If Labor is not now prepared to support the proposed inquiry, there will little doubt that behind their current political bluster relating to the controversy surrounding the Federal Member for Chisholm, Gladys Liu, they are running scared on the issue of China."
"Obviously it would also be good if the Government came on board as well, but their inclinations still appear to be to suppress any debate and discussion on China policy."
"Further political self-censorship about this key international relationship would not bode well for Australian democracy and sovereignty."
The text of Senator Patrick’s new motion can be found here.