In an interview with 2GB radio on May 21, Dutton said the BRI was a “propaganda exercise from China” and the Victorian government needed to show a “greater level of transparency” around the details of the agreement with Beijing.
Currently, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has signed two agreements with the Chinese regime’s National Development and Reform Commission.
Federal politicians have criticised these agreements for being light on detail.
“It’s good to have investment from all over the world, including China, but it needs to be done in the appropriate way with the safeguards,” said Dutton.
“The values of the communist regime are not compatible with ours, but we aren’t going to compromise on our values and beliefs, and the Prime Minister’s right to point that out,” he said referring to the federal government’s push to investigate the origins of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.
Dutton was careful to distinguish between the Chinese communist regime and Chinese Australians, the latter he said has made a “wonderful contribution to this country.”
Dutton’s comments follow Victorian Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching, who wrote on Twitter on May 20: “I think the Vic govt erred in signing up to “Belt & Road” initiative which has involved loans of US$350 billion (many to countries that won’t be able to repay). Equally, it’s time Morrison govt released its secret Belt & Road agreement with China.”
I think the Vic govt erred in signing up to “Belt & Road” initiative which has involved loans of US$350 billion (many to countries that won’t be able to repay).
— Kimberley Kitching 🇦🇺 (@kimbakit) May 20, 2020
Last month on April 30, Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson called on Victoria’s premier to withdraw from the BRI in light of the Chinese regime’s handling of the virus outbreak.
Henderson said the BRI was not in Australia’s “national interest.”
“China’s Belt and Road Initiative is the wrong road for Victoria,” she said in a press release.
First announced in 2013 by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the BRI is a global infrastructure partnership scheme where the Chinese regime works with countries keen for funding for large infrastructure projects including bridges and ports.
There is a backlash against the BRI as several developing nations have called it a “debt-trap,” meaning once a country is unable to repay the loan, the ownership of the project reverts to the Chinese regime.
On May 13, Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas defended the state’s relationship with Beijing during a state Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing when asked on whether the BRI in Victoria should be suspended.
“Absolutely not,” Pallas said. “There does need to be an inquiry into this pandemic event, but I think the vilification of any single nation is dangerous, damaging and probably irresponsible in many respects.”
He alluded to the federal government’s actions asking for an inquiry into the origins of the virus as “perhaps inelegant interventions” that have resulted in Australia losing trade on barley and beef.
Pallas also suggested the federal government had arrangements similar to the BRI with the Chinese regime, however, “The only difference is that we’ve made our arrangements public.”