Beijing Will Leverage PM's Visit: Morrison Issues 2nd Warning to Albanese

“They will describe it how they will describe it ... and that's not something one would ever have control over,” Mr. Morrison said.
Beijing Will Leverage PM's Visit: Morrison Issues 2nd Warning to Albanese
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the media at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on April 10, 2022. (Martin Ollman/Getty Images)
Rebecca Zhu

Former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has delivered his second warning to Anthony Albanese about the risks surrounding his upcoming trip to China.

Mr. Morrison said the Chinese Communist Party could use the trip and spin the narrative to suggest a “backdown” by the Australian government.

“I certainly don't think that’s what the intention is. But once you get on that plane and go there, well, they are controlling how that is represented, and their microphone is very big,” he told The Australian newspaper.

“They will describe it how they will describe it, internally and more broadly. And that's not something one would ever have control over.”

It comes before Mr. Morrison’s visit to Taiwan on Oct. 11-12 for the Yushan Forum, where former Prime Minister Tony Abbott called Beijing a “bully” two years ago.

Mr. Morrison said speaking at the forum was an opportunity for international engagement in Taiwan, which he described as “totemic” to the peace and security of the entire Indo-Pacific.

“I think it’s really important that I go there and express support, but do so in a practical way,” Mr. Morrison said.

“Because [Taiwan] is the one issue that if not handled well, poses significant threats to the region. But that has to be secured through strength, not appeasement.”

He reinforced his message to the Australian government that it must not use appeasement to deal with the CCP.

Second Warning

Previously, in the Coalition party room, Mr. Morrison raised concerns about the current Labor government’s “acquiescent and concessional approach” towards Beijing, particularly its “keenness” to restore relations.
"He was warning us about [Chinese leader] Xi and his regime—urging us to hold the line and not follow Labor's approach," one Coalition MP who listened to Mr. Morrison’s speech told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

"Scott told us he continued to be proud at how his government stood up to China and that other countries followed our lead."

Former Defence Minister Kevin Andrews agreed with Mr. Morrison’s message, similarly warning the Labor prime minister that the CCP propaganda machine could kick into action and paint Mr. Albanese’s trip as Australian “independence” from U.S. influence.

“Alacrity about the visit simply plays into Mr. Xi’s narrative about a superior China to which other nations are subservient. The prime minister will be portrayed in the Chinese media as paying homage to Mr. Xi,” he wrote in The Epoch Times.

“Any messages about human rights, if delivered by the prime minister, will be neglected by the state media.”

The CCP stopped all diplomatic communications and started an unofficial trade war with the former Morrison government in retaliation for its tough-on-CCP policies, including demanding an independent investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The diplomatic freeze thawed after the Albanese Labor government came to power.

Mr. Morrison's warnings come after Mr. Albanese accepted an invitation from Beijing to visit before the end of the year.

While exact dates have not been set, it is expected to fall near the end of October to mark 50 years since the first diplomatic trip to China by an Australian prime minister, the Labor Party's Gough Whitlam.

Mr. Whitlam’s historic trip from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4, 1973, set of a flurry of diplomatic relations between the West and Beijing.

Unravelling Trade Sanctions

Beijing has slowly lifted various trade tariffs placed on Australian goods, such as barley, timber, and coal, yet many remain.

Mr. Albanese has maintained that while his government would try to lift the trade barriers and was willing to work cooperatively with Beijing, that did not mean he was willing to compromise on Australian values and its national interests.

In August, Mr. Albanese said the next time he met Chinese Leader Xi Jinping he would push for the removal of the remaining trade impediments.

He noted that the removal of barley tariffs corresponded to $900 million in exports, which was a “big win” for Australian farmers and jobs.

“Those points [also] hold true for Australian wine, Australian lobster, and some of our beef exporters as well, where there are still trade impediments in place,” he said.

“We want to see these removed, in the best interests of everyone.

“And I’ll certainly be taking the opportunity to make that point when I next have the chance to meet with President Xi.”

In 2022, the prime minister called on Beijing to acknowledge that its economic coercion campaign on Australia was a mistake and remove the tariffs.

Meanwhile, the Chinese economy has been under significant pressure as it confronts challenges across the board, including skyrocketing youth unemployment, a collapsing real estate market, and floods destroying vast areas of farmland.

Henry Jom contributed to this report.