Prominent Liberal MP Andrew Hastie is calling for a “push back” against the activities of China in Australia as the coronavirus pandemic exposes the costs of “relying too heavily on an authoritarian regime” for our prosperity and economic security.
Mr Hastie, who is the chairman of Parliament’s intelligence and security committee, posted a petition on his website calling for people to “take action on Australian sovereignty”.
“Although few will admit it, the Chinese Communist Party seeks to reshape the global order and Australia’s position in it through foreign interference, ownership of strategic assets and influence operations,” he wrote.
“Australian institutions, universities, and assets are now contested; our sovereignty and independence will be diminished if we don’t continue to push back.”
The WA Liberal MP said safeguarding the nation’s future against regimes like the Chinese Communist Party was a generational challenge.
“To safeguard Australia’s future, it’s essential that we are united as a nation with the resolve to take action,” Mr Hastie said.
“We must ensure Australia is in a strong position to guarantee its security, prosperity and our ability to manufacture essential goods.”
After the outbreak of the pandemic, the role of Chinese manufacturing in the supply of goods, especially personal protective equipment in clinical settings, was highlighted by some Australian policymakers.
Earlier this month, National COVID-19 Co-ordination Commission boss Nev Power said Australia was too reliant on Chinese supply lines in medical equipment and the disruption caused by the coronavirus could spark a renaissance in smart, high-tech local manufacturing.
He said the decline in local industry had been happening for decades with the growth of manufacturing centres across Asia.
“Because of the size of those manufacturing units and the access they’ve had to markets, they’ve been very competitive and they’ve had really good quality products that they’ve been able to ship around the world,” Mr Power said.
“Our very high dollar, because it’s been a safe currency, has slowly but surely made a lot of our manufacturing businesses uncompetitive, so over decades we’re seen the decline in our industry.”
The comments come as Foreign Minister Marise Payne called for a global inquiry into the spread of coronavirus, which originated in China’s Wuhan province.
“We need to know the sorts of details that an independent review would identify for us about the genesis of the virus, about the approaches to dealing with it, and addressing the openness with which information was shared,” Senator Payne said.
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong gave the push by the Commonwealth Labor’s backing.
“Let’s get out there and talk to our partners, to our allies, to our friends, to the whole international community about why this is necessary,” Senator Wong told the ABC.
“And it is necessary not because anybody wants to play games, it is necessary not because now that people want to take sides, it is necessary because this is the worst pandemic humanity has experienced in over a century and people across this globe are entitled to understand how it happened so we can ensure it does not happen again.”