Victoria has signed up to China’s controversial “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure program amid federal government criticism.
Premier Daniel Andrews agreed to the global project on Oct. 23 while in Beijing, deepening the state’s ties to the country after signing a memorandum of understanding for the program last year. The MOU last year had caught the criticism of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Andrews says the latest deal will allow Victoria’s engineering and design firms to bid for contracts for “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR, also known as Belt and Road) infrastructure projects around the world.
“This has been an important opportunity to not only showcase Victoria’s massive pipeline of infrastructure projects, but also highlight the ingenuity and expertise of Victorian companies,” Andrews said.
“We are proud of our close relationship with our largest trading partner and will continue to work closely with China to promote Chinese investment in our state.”
But Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has accused Andrews of failing to act in the national interest by pursuing the agreement.
“Why does he believe this is in our national interest? Why does he believe it’s in Victoria’s interest?” Dutton told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
Dutton said that ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) and universities will work together to stamp out foreign interference, when asked whether he believed the Chinese deal was in Australia’s national interests.
“The state governments, including Premier Andrews, get regular updates from the director-general of ASIO, and additional briefings available to him or to the other premiers or chief ministers if they require it,” he said.
Beijing’s OBOR initiative has often been described as “dangerous debt diplomacy.” It has been criticized for potentially reinforcing corruption in countries with weak institutions, threatening democracy and benefiting Chinese firms rather than serving local interests, The Epoch Times previously reported.
Zeng Jianyuan, a scholar of national development at the National Taiwan University in Taipei, said that the Chinese regime aims to build up geopolitical strength in Asia although its own financial system is facing significant capital-constraints at home.
“Right now China is trying to continue its expansion and development,” Zeng told The Epoch Times. “By investing in small underdeveloped Asia-Pacific countries that have no way of paying off their loans, the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] can guarantee lasting control over the bountiful strategic resources these countries possess.”