After asking a specific question about China amid mounting tensions with the country, Scott Morrison gave a surprising answer.
The prime minister refuted claims that the government has come to terms with not having high levels of communication with China, despite being Australia’s largest trading partner.
Speaking on Thursday, Scott Morrison insisted the government was “open to dialogue” with Chinese leader Xi Jinping despite reports dating back to May last year that top Australian officials could not call their counterparts Chinese on the phone.
At the time, Trade Secretary Simon Birmingham tried to set up a phone call to settle the growing trade dispute between the two countries, but received no response.
The fallout with Mr Birmingham continued after China imposed trade tariffs on Australian products, including wine, beef exports and barley.
A dumbfounded Mr Birmingham described China’s actions as “obviously another step in what has been a disappointing, frustrating and deeply concerning Chinese decision-making pattern for quite a long time.”
China defended its investigation into the Australian wine industry, saying it was not retaliation for “continued political provocations” or actions by Australian politicians who “deliberately sabotaged bilateral relations.”
The rift widened after Mr Morrison called for an independent investigation into the Covid-19 crisis and claimed Australia would hold on.
This week, US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart made headlines after holding a virtual meeting, the third time President Biden has spoken to President Xi.
The couple were shocked by the news of the talks after growing tensions between the two nations.
When highlighting Australia’s concerns over Beijing’s silence towards Australia, Morrison said trade with our largest trading partner continued at “very high levels”.
“The Australian side has always been very happy to be able to open this dialogue and we welcome this dialogue whenever the Chinese president and other ministers of the Chinese system are happy to meet Australia,” Morrison said.
âAustralia is always very open to this dialogue and engages in this dialogue at any opportunity it seeks.
âOur positions on the issues are very clear. We know very clearly what our interests are, our security interests, our economic interests.
âWe will always stand up for Australia’s interests. There will never be a compromise on this.
“But we are also happy to work with everyone in our region to make sure we have a free and open Indo-Pacific, and that is the goal of our policy.”
It happened as India’s prime minister dealt a thinly veiled blow to China at an Australian summit on Thursday, warning technology and data were becoming ‘new weapons’ that should not be misused. usefully by “some interest groups”.
Earlier this week, Morrison warned China he would not “sell” Australia or restrict free speech after the emerging superpower filed a formal complaint against a Liberal senator.
The war of words erupted after Liberal Senator James Paterson delivered a speech to the European Parliament accusing China of foreign interference. .