Victorian Opposition Increases Pressure on Premier Andrews Over Belt and Road

June 2, 2020 Updated: June 2, 2020

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is facing increasing scrutiny from the state’s Liberal and National Parties over his staffer’s connections to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Victoria’s agreement with Beijing to join its Belt and Road infrastructure project.

Taking to Twitter on June 2, the state’s Liberal Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien wrote that the Chinese Communist Party had compromised the Andrews’ government after an Andrews’ staffer was accused of having ties to the United Front, a propaganda arm of the CCP.

The allegations against staffer Nancy Yang, a former staff member of the Chinese Consulate in Melbourne, appeared in The Australian on June 2. This is the second time an Andrews staff member has been accused of having close ties to the CCP.

On Nov. 8, 2018, The Australian alleged Dan Andrews senior advisor Marty Mei also had close ties to the CCP after it was discovered that he had been made a “special consultant” for the Shenzhen Association of Australia.

According to The Australian, the Shenzhen Association is part of a “network of Australian organisations” with ties to CCPs United Front Department.

Supporting O’Brien’s stance, Liberal MP Tim Smith wrote on Twitter on June 2: “How many communists work for Chairman Dan ? Labor says Nancy Yang has made a “outstanding contribution” to where – the CCP, the ALP, or both ?”

Smith, a critic of Andrews, said on June 1 in a blog post, the Andrews government is out of its depth in dealing with the Chinese government.

“State Labor should listen to its federal colleagues; even they know Victoria signing up to BRI is not in the national interest. Australia should only ever speak with one voice on the global stage,” he said.

Smith also remarked that given China had put an 80 percent tariff on one of Victoria’s two largest cereal exports, it was not right for the Andrews government to blame “the victim, accusing the federal government of being the cause for the Chinese government punishment.”

Belt and Road Not in Victoria’s Best Interests

Leader of the Victorian National Party Peter Walsh agreed with Smith’s comments. Writing in a blog post on June 2, he said that “China’s 80 percent tariff on Australian barley shows Victoria’s Belt and Road deal with China hasn’t delivered for our farmers.”

“Victorian farmers are now effectively barred from our state’s major export partner, despite Daniel Andrews’s claims his dodgy Belt and Road deal with China is in our state’s best interests,” said Walsh

“This deal is all one-way traffic, and it’s not in Victoria’s best interests,” Walsh concluded.

Andrews reportedly responded to the opposition pressure over the Belt and Road deal in the Victorian parliament June 2, saying “he won’t take his orders from Canberra.”

Nationals MP Steph Ryan shared her reaction on Twitter, writing: “Daniel Andrews says in [question time] he “won’t take his orders from Canberra” on the belt and road agreement. Extraordinary, considering DFAT’s position and the Federal Government’s responsibility for foreign policy.”