The Chinese regime’s vocal mouthpiece, The Global Times, has weighed in on Australia’s impending federal election, publishing an op-ed advocating for Australian Labor Party (ALP) leader Anthony Albanese to lead the country.
In a rather backhanded manner, retired Australian diplomat Bruce Haigh—who authored the piece—said Albanese was “not an intellectual” and was afraid of upsetting voters, but compared to current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, he “positively shines.”
Haigh also claimed Australia was caught in a “dangerous” rip leading it away from stable diplomatic relations—led by Morrison—which was contributing to worsening relations with the People’s Republic of China.
Under Prime Minister Morrison, Australia has continued to adopt a tougher stance on Chinese foreign interference, which began notably under his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull, who cancelled Huawei’s participation in the country’s 5G network.
Last year, Morrison’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne terminated two Belt and Road Initiative agreements signed by Victorian state leader Daniel Andrews.
Meanwhile, Haigh, who served Australia from the 1970s to the 90s, said that should Albanese and the ALP win the election, he would need to help Australia “get to shore.”
Surprisingly just hours later, The Global Times wrote in a post on Twitter that the piece should not be taken as evidence of an endorsement of Albanese while mocking Australia’s partisanship on defence.
The opposition leader responded on Feb. 16, saying he had no say in what was published in the Chinese Communist Party’s heavily controlled propaganda outlet.
“I’m indifferent to it … Ultimately what we’re focused on is the position that we have in relation to national security,” he said in comments obtained by the AAP.
The Global Times has made Australia a target of its editorial, particularly after Beijing launched an ongoing trade war against the country in response to the Morrison government’s calls for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Australia-China relations has taken centre stage as both major parties begin campaigning for the upcoming federal election, which is due before May 2022.
Members of the Morrison government have gone on the attack, claiming the ALP is the preferred candidate for Beijing.
Last week on Feb. 10, Morrison told the House of Representatives that his government would not look to appease those seeking to “coerce Australia.”
“The leader of the Labor Party said he’s happy to trade away and ask China—to accept some and stand by some of their coercion,” he said.
While on Feb. 14, Liberal Party Senator James Paterson questioned why the ALP deputy leader, Richard Marles, removed a 2019 speech, delivered in Beijing and advocating for closer defence ties, from his website.
“What is he trying to hide? What is in this secret speech he’s now so embarrassed about?” Senator Paterson wrote on Twitter. “Perhaps, with Labor now trying to feign bipartisanship on China, the speech he delivered in Beijing as shadow defence minister and deputy Labor leader is no longer helpful.”
Marles has responded to the recent attacks saying the government was politicising national security.
“The prime minister is clearly trying to create a political issue in the context of the upcoming election around national security,” he told ABC Radio on Feb. 16.
“It shows a level of desperation in terms of trying to find an issue for the election,” he said, adding that the ALP and Liberal-National government-held bipartisan positions on national security.
Meanwhile, academics warn the Albanese-led campaign team will need to extinguish the ALP’s association with Chinese political interference, with Professor Ian Hall of the Griffith Asia Institute saying the party needed to distance itself from recent comments by former ALP Prime Minister Paul Keating.
“I think a clean break from the Keating-istas is going to have to be made soon by the ALP,” he wrote on Twitter. “A nice clear ‘China has changed’ speech from someone senior is needed, or votes will be lost.”