Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has warned the growing influence of China in Australia is a huge issue for both major parties.
Speaking on ABC’s Insiders on Sunday morning, the Labor leader said president Xi Jinping’s regime has become a more “assertive” force than any previous Chinese government.
“This isn’t a partisan issue,” he said.
“I mean (Xi Jinping’s regime is) more assertive and we can see that played out in a number of ways, and therefore, that requires a response by the Australian government in the national interest.”
When asked if China was “intervening” in Australia Mr Albanese said: “Quite clearly they are. And we’ve seen various examples of that on universities, for example. And we’ve seen that played out”.
Mr Albanese said federal Labor would never seek trade agreements under China’s controversial belt and road initiative, despite Victorian premier Daniel Andrews signing a memorandum of understanding through the scheme in 2018.
Mr Albanese’s comments coincide with prospective new foreign intervention laws launched by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, which would give the federal government veto powers to null and void contracts that are deemed not in the national interest.
“Certainly, there shouldn’t be agreements that are inconsistent with Australia’s national interest, or our foreign policy,” Mr Albanese said.
The opposition leader also used the popular morning show to scrutinise the prime minister’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, raising questions as to why no agreement has been produced for a coronavirus vaccine deal.
“It’s now 1.5 weeks since the Government announced a so-called deal on a vaccine,” he said.
“One and a half weeks later, we still have no agreement. There are agreements covering four billion vaccinations around the world. Australia has exactly zero.”
He also noted ongoing restrictions in Victoria and the two pronged economic recovery mean JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments should remain at current payout levels, instead of the planned tapering of the schemes in September.
Mr Albanese also noted COVID-19 crisis had exacerbated the “neglect” of aged care residents, with the current royal commission into Australia’s age care system revealing a number of systemic failures.
“The Age Care Royal Commission brought down the interim report on October 31 last year — it was titled ‘Neglect’,” he said.
“That one word says it all about the way that aged care residents are currently being treated, and there are some great facilities, but a whole lot of people simply missing out on the care that they deserve, giving them that dignity and respect that they’re entitled to.”