‘Things aren’t going back’: Australia braces for step-up in China’s Pacific push

The Australian government is bracing for China to step up its push to expand influence in the Pacific, with a senior figure privately conceding Canberra has a lot of work to do to regain lost trust and strengthen regional unity. Despite initial relief at a decision by Pacific island countries to defer a sweeping 10-country security and economic pact proposed by China, the Australian government now believes this may be only a temporary reprieve. “Things aren’t going back to the way they were,” said a senior Australian government figure who…

China ambassador tells Australian protesters ‘no such thing as absolute freedom’

China’s ambassador to Australia has declared there is “no such thing as absolute freedom” as he defended his country’s human rights record during a speech in Sydney. Facing repeated interruptions from protesters, Xiao Qian said on Friday there was no reason the two countries should be enemies but they should respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – phrasing that indicates Australia should moderate its comments about Taiwan and Hong Kong. He described the meeting between China and Australia’s defence ministers in Singapore earlier this month as “very significant”, after…

‘Considerable strain’: how Australian officials saw the China rift

Australian officials stayed in “regular contact” with the Chinese embassy in Canberra to “explain our decisions” even when Australian ministers were subjected to a two-year diplomatic freeze, newly released documents show. The former Morrison government had been “willing to engage with China in dialogue at any time”, according to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade briefing notes, which also described the relationship as being under “considerable strain”. Australian government ministers were blocked from meetings or calls with their direct Chinese counterparts for more than two years, although lower-level diplomats and…

Albanese to meet Macron in Paris for ‘important reset’ of Australia’s relationship with France

Prime minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed he will visit France to meet President Emmanuel Macron, and is considering travelling to Ukraine, during next week’s trip to Europe for the Nato summit. Albanese said he was also looking forward to “having further dialogue” with the Chinese government, but admitted the relationship would remain “problematic” for some time, despite a recent end to the freeze on diplomatic relations. “Already there have been some improvements but it’s a long way to go,” the prime minister told the ABC’s 7.30 program. Albanese will on…

Chinese-speaking voters critical of Coalition’s ‘militaristic’ stance on China in lead-up to 2022 election, WeChat study shows

The Coalition’s muscular position toward China is not going down well with Chinese-speaking voters, while Labor is facing criticism over its more generous approach to humanitarian immigration, an analysis of WeChat audience comments reveals. The study of more than 3,000 political news stories and associated comments appearing on the Chinese social media platform, WeChat, has been undertaken by researchers at Monash and Deakin Universities over the past 11 months, including during the election campaign. It provides an insight into the Australian political news reaching Chinese speakers and how they are…

Factcheck: the Coalition says Labor always ‘takes China’s side’, but are the parties’ positions so different?

As the Coalition campaign seeks to revive the talking point that Labor always “takes China’s side”, Scott Morrison implored reporters to “just look at the record”. So we did just that and found the claims by the prime minister and his senior ministers are either factually inaccurate, misleading, or lack context. Claim What I don’t understand is that when something of this significance takes place, why would you take China’s side? – Scott Morrison in response to Labor criticism over the security agreement between China and Solomon Islands, leaders’ debate,…

Australia’s lost influence in Pacific on display in Solomon Islands-China deal, Anthony Albanese says

Australia has lost influence in the Pacific by failing to act on climate and cutting foreign aid, Anthony Albanese says, amid concerns about China’s proposed security deal with Solomon Islands. Australia and New Zealand are worried the draft agreement could jeopardise regional stability, with China having the opportunity to base navy warships in the Pacific less than 2,000km off the Australian coast. The prime minister of Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, is due to address parliament in Honiara on Tuesday about security cooperation with China. But the leaking of the draft…

Essential poll analysis:​ Coalition’s national security scare campaign may have backfired

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Fresh leak reveals Scott Morrison rolled in cabinet over plan to win back renegade MPs

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has been hit with a damaging cabinet leak revealing he was rolled over a plan to convince renegade MPs opposed to the government’s religious discrimination bill. After a torrid start to the parliamentary year, which saw Morrison’s character come under question after the leaking of a damaging text message, the prime minister has spent the week attempting to corral MPs into supporting the religious discrimination bill. In a story published late on Thursday, The Australian reported Morrison had been rolled in a cabinet meeting on…