Concetta Fierravanti-Wells says Turnbull, Bishop neglected concerns about China in the Pacific


Outgoing international development minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has accused Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop of failing to back her up after she criticised China’s aid program in the Pacific.

Key points:

  • Senator Fierravanti-Wells said she felt abandoned when she raised the issue of Chinese loans in the Pacific
  • Claimed colleagues felt she was not supported by PM and Foreign Minister
  • Senator Fierravanti-Wells’ comments on Pacific drew rebukes from regional leaders

Ms Fierravanti-Wells quit the frontbench after voting for Peter Dutton in yesterday’s leadership spill, saying Mr Turnbull had alienated the party’s base.

The Senator was also unhappy about the way she was treated after she made contentious comments about China’s relationship with the Pacific.

“I was disappointed that my frank and forthright comments regarding China were criticised,” she wrote in her resignation letter yesterday.

“I am pleased that subsequent events and media scrutiny have fully vindicated me raising these concerns.”

In January, the Senator stirred controversy when she accused Beijing of building “roads to nowhere”in the Pacific while saddling small nations with unsustainable debt.

Ms Bishop did not criticise Senator Fierravanti-Wells’ comments, but she pointedly did not back them up either.

When asked today if she felt she’d been “hung out to dry” by the party leadership, Senator Fierravanti-Wells told the ABC she “would have liked more support”.

“That was certainly the perception, and that was certainly my view. And that was the perception of some of my colleagues as well,” she said.

“But the reality is that we’re in politics. That’s fine.”

In January, China’s Foreign Ministry responded angrily to Ms Fierravanti-Wells’ intervention in the debate, which also drew criticism from some Pacific leaders.

‘Growing awareness of the impact of debt’

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele said her comments were “insulting”, while the Cook Islands called them “unfortunate”.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells said other Pacific leaders had contacted her in the wake of the controversy to offer support and encouragement.

She argued that Tonga’s abortive attempt to get the Pacific Islands Forum to discuss the issue showed she was right to voice concerns.

“The reality is that subsequent events have vindicated my position, and the concerns I raised,” she said.

“My comments stimulated an international debate, it stimulated a debate in the Pacific … and a growing awareness of the impact of debt.”

Senator Fierravanti-Wells added that Ms Bishop was now using more hawkish language on the issue as well.

“I am pleased that, eventually, the language I used has also been the language that ultimately the Foreign Minister also used.”

By Stephen Dziedzic


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