Penny Wong labels Scott Morrison’s warning against negative globalism “disturbingly lightweight” in a speech targeting his handling of foreign affairs and the China relationship.
In a speech to the Australian Institute of International Affairs on Monday Labor’s shadow foreign affairs minister will argue that Morrison makes decisions against the national interest for “short-term political gain”.
In a draft of the speech, seen by Guardian Australian, Wong also takes aim at Morrison for echoing Chinese propaganda by suggesting legitimate questions about the Liberal MP Gladys Liu’s links with China were racist.
Earlier in October in a major speech to the Lowy Institute after his visit to the US, Morrison declared sovereign nations need to eschew an “unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy” and the world needs to avoid “negative globalism”, an echo of Donald Trump’s speech to the United Nations declaring the future belonged to patriots, not globalists.
On Monday Wong will accuse Morrison of using rhetoric “reminiscent of the right-wing nationalism” in the US to “distract and divert” from a poor record on foreign policy.
Wong will question what Morrison “actually means” given that Australia’s international commitments “have been voluntarily entered into” and assessed as in the national interest.
“Scott Morrison knows the nationalist agenda in the US is an anti-immigration agenda – but it is equally an anti-trade agenda,” she says.
“You can’t be pro-free trade and anti-globalist – and we all need to call Scott Morrison’s bluff on this.
“Even if Scott Morrison seeks to follow President Trump in closing Australia to immigration, he can never close Australia to trade.”
Wong describes Morrison as “the best political tactician in Australia right now” but argues he “hasn’t delivered anything of substance, because that’s not who he is”.
When Labor pursued Liu in parliament questioning whether she had inappropriate links with the Chinese Communist party, Morrison dismissed the questions as “grubby smear”.
Wong quotes a number of commentators who suggested Morrison had “done Beijing’s work for it” because the Chinese government often deflects criticism or scrutiny of alleged foreign interference with claims of racism.
Wong accuses Morrison of having being similarly reckless in the handling of the relationship with China when he declared China was a developed country while in the US after attending a Trump rally.
“This gave unnecessary fuel to the Chinese government’s narrative that Australia just follows the United States; that when we make decisions that China doesn’t like – on 5G or the South China Sea for example – we do so only because we have been asked to by the US.”
Wong argues that Australia must deal with strategic competition between the US and China and major global disruption but the Morrison government has “no plan”.
The Lowy speech was “a disturbingly lightweight speech for the prime minister of a third term government” which “laid out no pathway on strategic competition – not one new idea, not one solution”, Wong argues.
Wong will say Labor is committed to engage on China in a bipartisan way but notes the government is yet to respond to Labor’s proposal for better parliamentary briefings on the relationship.
Wong argues Australia’s national interest is best served by bipartisanship in international engagement but warns “Morrison’s motivations are not the national interest”. “They are short-term political interests.”
Wong argues the international affairs community has a responsibility to call out Morrison for “his willingness to use reckless language and take risky decisions for domestic political gain”.
On Friday the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, launched a wide-ranging attack on the Chinese Communist party, accusing it of engineering a series of cyber-attacks on Australian targets, stealing intellectual property and muzzling free speech.
China’s government rejected the “irrational accusations”, labelling them “shocking and baseless”.
On Sunday the resources and northern Australia minister, Matt Canavan, defended Dutton’s intervention, telling Sky News he was speaking “the facts of the matter … that our system of government, our philosophy, is inconsistent with communist regimes”.
Canavan noted the government had expressed concerns about the arrest and treatment of Australian citizens in China, their lack of access to legal representation, and treatment of Uighurs in China.
By Paul Karp