Topics: Australia’s International Development Policy; PM meeting with Xi Jinping; wine
08 August 2023
Peter Stefanovic: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has flagged a potential meeting with China’s Xi Jinping next month. It comes as the Government prepares to release its new Overseas Development Policy today which aims to counter Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative. So joining us live now is Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham. Simon yes, so there’s a bit of a quid pro quo here; gender equality 80 per cent is a need when it comes to climate objectives so, I wonder if this would, if it’s going to be too hard if it’s going to drive these Pacific Islands into the arms of China?
Simon Birmingham: Good to be with you. We’ll look very closely at the detail of this new Development Assistance Policy that’s being released today. What we can see from some of the early reports is that this policy falls a long way short of the type of commitments Labor made in their national platform in relation to aid and development assistance. So, there will be much disappointment at Labor’s failure in that regard. And we’ll be looking carefully to make sure that there is no dilution in relation to the focus that the Coalition Government placed around development assistance being focused on our Pacific Island neighbours and friends and on our near region and making sure, critically, that across the region, we are delivering practical assistance that helps lift education standards; helps improve health outcomes; delivers and drives development outcomes generally. And they are the critical, practical steps that we want to make sure are attached to any spending of Australian taxpayer dollars on international development assistance.
Peter Stefanovic: Have you got any concerns though? If the conditions are too tough, too tough though, that the Pacific Islands will just look further to China and go well this is going to be easier plus we’ll get more money over here?
Simon Birmingham: I think it’s always important that we make sure that in working with our partners, with Pacific Island neighbours that they understand the consequences of all different development partnerships they enter into. We’ve seen debt traps established in certain instances. We’ve seen poor infrastructure outcomes elsewhere. So bad development assistance that comes in forms that leave lasting problems for Pacific Island countries is something we should make sure they steer well clear of and understand the consequences. Whereas making sure Australia’s quality investment is well understood by everybody and that is the intense focus that has to be there.
Peter Stefanovic: Looks like the PM is going to meet with Xi Jinping on the sidelines, perhaps even something more official than that, the G20 in India later on this year. Do you support that?
Simon Birmingham: Look if the opportunity is there in the margins of G20, for a meeting that would be welcome. There is much still for the Government to press in relation to removal of remaining trade sanctions. Wine very clearly, but also in other sectors such as live seafood. There are of course the detained Australians who still need fairer access to justice and greater transparency in relation to their cases. There are other concerns that need to be raised. So, there are certainly plenty of items for the Prime Minister to discuss with President Xi and the margins of G20 lends itself to that. In relation to the trade breakthrough on Friday, that was good news. But particularly on wine, there are questions for the Government to clarify – it was expected that the World Trade Organisation’s interim report into Australia’s appeal against China’s tariffs on our wine industry would be released by now – or around about now. I now see reports pushing that out to October so if there are delays, the Government should be upfront about the cause of those delays and why that isn’t proceeding at the pace that had been anticipated.
Peter Stefanovic: Alright, Simon Birmingham. Good to see you as always, we’ll chat to you again soon.