With Scott Morrison in full attack mode about comments made by Richard Marles regarding China, it seems only fair to give Morrison’s views equal air time.
The following is an excerpt from his 2019 speech “Where we live“, delivered at the University of Melbourne Asialink conference.
“Like all of us, China and the US have a strong interest, and a special responsibility, to modernise and support the system that has delivered unprecedented growth in national wealth and living standards over the last two decades.
We can support these efforts and outcomes by rejecting the fatalism of increased polarisation and resisting the analysis that only sees these issues through a binary prism.
It is in no-one’s interest in the Indo-Pacific to see an inevitably more competitive US-China relationship become adversarial in character.
All nations in our region, not just Australia, are having to adjust to this period of great power competition. All of us are similarly seeking to balance our interests, our history, our geography, our alliances, our partnerships and aspirations in the context of this new dynamic.
We will continue to lead by example, developing our close web of relationships across and within the Indo-Pacific.
This year we hope to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, an agreement that includes 16 economies and accounts for about one-third of global GDP.
To conclude the agreement when leaders meet in Bangkok in November this year, I would urge leaders to send their Trade Ministers to the meeting next month in Beijing with a clear mandate to deal.
My Government is also committed to further enhancing our relationship with China.
Our relationship with China has many strengths.
Our trading relationship is flourishing, with two-way trade reaching a remarkable $215 billion in 2018, which benefits both countries.
Our cooperation with China through our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership goes well beyond economic issues.
We are working together across fields including health, education, and taxation, where Australia offers world-class expertise.
We’ve also been cooperating successfully to counter drug trafficking through Taskforce Blaze.
There is more we can do. That’s why we established the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations earlier this year.
The Foundation will strengthen areas where we already cooperate, deepen the already rich links across our communities, and help identify new areas for practical cooperation.
While we will be clear-eyed that our political differences will affect aspects of our engagement, we are determined that our relationship not be dominated by areas of disagreement.
The decisions we make in relation to China are based solely on our national interests, just as theirs are towards Australia, and these are sometimes hard calls to make.
But they are designed always to leave large scope for cooperation on common interests and recognise the importance of China’s economic success.
This success is good for China, it is good for Australia.
We welcome Chinese investment.
We have welcomed it for decades.
The stock of Chinese investment in Australia in 2018 was more than 8 times larger than a decade ago, and China is our ninth largest investor behind the USA, Japan, UK and the Netherlands.
Australia has the most liberal foreign investment regime in our region. It is not possible for Australians to invest in China in the way Chinese investments are made here. Perhaps this will change, but our policy is not framed in the context of reciprocity, but national interest.
We retain our sovereignty over these investments, especially in relation to strategic and national security considerations, but where such issues are satisfied, we would be only harming our own economic interests if we were to deny our economy access to this capital.
That is why we operate a non-discriminatory approach to investment screening.
And I note that all nations, including China, screen foreign investment.
The infrastructure needs of the region are enormous and Australia welcomes the contribution that the Belt and Road Initiative can make to regional infrastructure investment and to regional development.
We support regional investments with commercial merit that meet genuine market need and international standards, including on transparency and debt sustainability.”
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