27 August 2020

Everyone in this chamber and around the country agrees that our national interest must always come first. But this government's approach to our relationship with China must be scrutinised. Today we are told that the government will legislate to tear up the Victorian government's MOU with China, and those signed by other states, and also scrutinise the actions of universities and local governments. If this government has concerns with agreements entered into by these bodies, they should be making those concerns clear instead of launching public attacks.

And the hypocrisy of this government! They are having a crack at Victoria, when former Liberal trade minister Steve Ciobo signed the government's own very, very secret memorandum of understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative. When was that? It was only in 2017, a mere three years ago—and here we are having a crack at everyone else's job! Let's not forget that this is also the Liberal government which sold away the lease on the port of Darwin—a 99-year lease. It is hard to imagine there being a more strategic asset in the north of this country. So the facts and the actions of the Liberal government in this place speak for themselves. Liberal governments are making one poor decision after another in relation to our relationship with China.

As the shadow minister for trade, I'm well aware of the importance of our relationship with China. We have enjoyed a mutually beneficial trade arrangement for many years. They've created thousands of jobs for Australia. Disengagement with China is not an option, and this government needs to do its job.