Aussie Senator Calls for Tariffs on Imports from China in ‘Plan for Reparations’

June 17, 2020 Updated: June 18, 2020

A Liberal Senator has outlined details of her demands to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to pay Australia reparations for the economic damage caused by the outbreak of the CCP virus pandemic. Her plans include new tariffs on Chinese imports and potentially seizing assets owned by Chinese state-owned entities.

On June 16, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells outlined her “plan for reparations” in a speech to the Senate, saying: “No Australian has been left untouched by the negligent actions of the CCP. Therefore, it is just that China pays compensation.”

“Billions of dollars have been borrowed. Australian taxpayers will need to shoulder the enormous burden of repaying the debt,” she said.

The former minister for international development previously spoke to The Epoch Times on her “plan to decouple” from China in response to the ongoing trade dispute with the regime.

Epoch Times Photo
A group of Asian tourists has their photograph taken in front of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge on May 8, 2012. (Greg Wood/AFP/GettyImages)

For her “plan for reparations,” the senator cited similar calls by the United States and the United Kingdom (UK).

On April 5, the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) published a report arguing the UK could potentially claim up to £351 billion (AU$641.9 billion) from the Chinese regime for its negligent handling of the CCP virus. The HJS calculated Australia could claim $54 billion and the United States could claim $1.7 trillion.

Fierravanti-Wells told the Senate that if the UK pursued a claim, and was successful, “the United Kingdom would be entitled to pursue any lawful means for collection of that judgement.”

The senator proposed three means for Australia to collect compensation from China, saying: “Reparations are synonymous with monetary compensation.”

The first involved the seizure of assets under the control of China’s state-owned entities, including the Port of Darwin. The government could look to refloat or sell off the assets as part of the compensation claim.

In 2015, Chinese company Landbridge was sold a 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin for $506 million. At the time, the sale was exempt from scrutiny by the Foreign Investment Review Board. The senator said the port was part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“Regardless of why the lease was signed, national security imperatives, including threats from China’s actions in the South China Sea and the growing military requirements, are such that the lease should now be broken,” she said.

Fierravanti-Wells did not believe the Chinese authorities would explore legal means for recourse given it is a “totalitarian regime.”

The second means was for Australia to stop repaying government bonds owned by Chinese entities. Fierravanti-Wells quoted the Royal Bank of Canada that estimated the sovereign debt owned by the CCP was valued at around $130 billion.

The third was to impose tariffs, a “blunt tool,” in response to the CCP’s implementation of tariffs on barley imports from Australia. The senator said Australia “should not be afraid to do so likewise.”

“Of course, this would further impact on the relationship, but judging by the ongoing threats by the CCP to Australia across many areas it clearly doesn’t give a damn,” she told the Senate.

The call echoes similar actions taken by the United States during its “trade war” with China last year. The United States imposed tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods coming into the country, with the president championing the “great economic results” resulting from the extra duties being paid to the U.S. Treasury.

On May 11, Fierravanti-Wells spoke to The Epoch Times, calling for Australia to develop its own manufacturing base for “strategic goods and services,” and reduce its over-reliance on the Chinese economy.

“The Government must finally understand that putting 26.4 percent of our trade eggs in the China basket has made us overly vulnerable …” she said.

Australia imported from China telecommunications equipment, computers, furniture, refined petroleum, children’s goods, sporting goods, and textiles.

“This demonstrates the extent of our dependency on China but also the enormous scope for greater self–reliance,” she said.

Australia currently is engaged in a protracted trade dispute with the Chinese regime, which has seen it impose tariffs on Australian barley imports, ban imports from four Australian abattoirs, notify Chinese power plants not to buy Australian coal, and suddenly hand a death sentence to an Australian actor jailed in China.