Treasurer Josh Frydenberg leapt to the defence of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton after China accused him of parroting US lines.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Canberra responded angrily to Mr Dutton’s call for more transparency about the origins of coronavirus.
“Obviously he must have also received some instructions from Washington requiring him to co-operate with the US in its propaganda war against China,” the spokesman said.
Mr Frydenberg told ABC News Breakfast on Wednesay the spokesman’s comments were “unwanted and unjustified”, adding that senior government ministers would continue to speak up about issues in Australia’s national interest.
He said the commercial relationship with Australia’s largest trading partner should continue despite occasional political and strategic disagreements.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has also faced China’s scorn after pushing for an independent review into the origins of coronavirus and questioning the communist country’s transparency.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Senator Payne’s views were not based on facts, expressing serious concerns with her comments.
But Australia is pushing ahead with a global push for the review, raising the issue with Germany and France.
“It is in the nature of a new infectious disease that it has to start somewhere. In this case, that place was Wuhan in China,” Senator Payne wrote in The Australian on Wednesday.
“Australia is well-placed to call for a transparent, international review into COVID-19 because we are a liberal democracy with a proud history of shaping constructive global co-operation.”