Liberal and Labor current and former politicians in Australia have rebuked the views of former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating, who said Australia had “lost its way” regarding its China policies.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Keating’s views were typical of Labor and that the former leader couldn’t “see things clearly.”
Morrison said that his government had “taken a very strong position” in the Indo-Pacific region in “standing up for Australia’s interests.”
This position has seen Australia refuse to kowtow to Beijing in the face of trade pressure, via tariffs, which have been described as “economic coercion.”
“We’ve worked closely with our allies and our partners right across the region, not just the United States but [also] Japan and India, and the many nations of ASEAN who we work closely with to make sure that we aren’t pushed around in this part of the world,” Morrison said, according to The Australian.
“Now, the views that Paul Keating has expressed is in line with many I think in the Labor Party, and that’s why I said … How we secure Australia’s interests in our part of the world, you have got to be strong.
“You’ve got to be able to see things clearly. We are.”
Morrison noted that this was why his government had invested more in defence than at any time since the Second World War.
“I think Australians get it. We want to have a positive relationship with countries like China and trade with them, but at the same time, we’re not going to get pushed around,” he said.
This comes after Keating’s National Press Club address, where he said that Australia should stay out of any conflict with Taiwan, and suggested that the U.S. and UK-backed nuclear submarines, which came out of the AUKUS security pact minted in September, would be like “throwing toothpicks” at the “mountain,” meaning China.
Joining Morrison in criticising Keating’s remarks was a former Labor cabinet minister, Stephen Conroy, who said Keating was “absolutely wrong” in his assessment of China on the world stage.
Speaking to Sky News Australia’s Andrew Bolt, Conroy said Keating, who is a lauded Labor leader, had an outdated view of the Chinese regime.
Conroy said Keating wrongly believed that “there would be a benign rise” of China, but that didn’t justify the former prime minister’s decision to “turn a blind eye and to obfuscate.”
“He’s absolutely wrong. Paul was a legend of the Labor Party, he was an extraordinary economic reformer, and he also had a footprint on the world stage,” Conroy said.
“But the world has fundamentally shifted since [Chinese leader Xi Jinping] took over.
“Paul can’t keep just waving his hand and dismissing the actions of the president of China,” he said.
Nationals Senator Matt Canavan pointed to human rights abuses perpetrated by the Chinese regime as a reason for Australia not to trust Beijing.
“I think Paul needs to ask the people of Hong Kong and Xinjiang how much we can trust them? For someone who likes to present themselves as a hard headed realist, he has unhealthy trust in the word of communists,” he told The Epoch Times.
Meanwhile, Liberal Senator Eric Abetz said it was sad to see “outdated, misinformed, and misguided” opinions on China trotted out by the former prime minister.
“‘China is not about turning over the existing world order’ and ‘It’s not the old Soviet Union pursuing some international ideology’ asserts Mr Keating, but that is exactly what China aims to do,” Abetz told The Epoch Times.
“One must not forget that it was Paul Keating who said, ‘That government of theirs has been the best government in the world in the last thirty years.’
“One wonders how much his membership of the International Advisory Council of the China Development Bank colours his views.
“The less Mr Keating opines on China, the better our public discourse becomes,” he said.
Speaking to the Today show, national Labor Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese didn’t say whether he agreed with Keating, but said that “he is wise counsel.”
“China has changed its stance, and Australia has too,” Albanese said, according to The Australian.
“We will always stand up for Australian values.”