Clive Palmer’s verbal attack on China was “reckless”, “self-indulgent” and could fuel anti-Australian sentiment in corners of the Chinese media, says former Foreign Minister Bob Carr.
Speaking to The New Daily, Mr Carr said the comments, which were made on the ABC’s Q&A program, were “unworthy of a member of the Australian parliament.”
“It is not in Australia’s interests that they be vented,” he said. “He’s allowed his business disputes to cloud his judgment on something crucial to this country’s future and the livelihood of its people – namely, our relationship with China.”
When asked on Monday night about his legal fight against a Chinese state-owned company, Mr Palmer said: “I don’t mind standing up against the Chinese bastards.”
Following a shocked audience response, he called the Chinese “mongrels” and added: “I’m saying that because they’re communist, because they shoot their own people, they haven’t got a justice system and they want to take over this country.” (Watch a video of the comments below.)
But Mr Carr, now the Director of the Australia China Relations Institute at the University of Technology, Sydney, said the insults ran counter to Australian interests.
“There’s a real danger that these comments could cede a view in China that Australia’s not interested in engagement with them.
“Australia would be jumpy and paranoid and worried and anxious and near hysterical if someone in the Chinese leadership, say someone in the politburo or the parliament, expressed views about Australia that were a mirror image of his views about China.”
A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy told the ABC the comments “were full of ignorance and prejudice”.
On Tuesday, the Palmer United Party (PUP) did not back away from its leader’s comments.
Tasmanian Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie defended the sentiments, and raised the possibility of a communist invasion.
“If anybody thinks that we should have a national security and defence policy which ignores the threat of a Chinese Communist invasion – you’re delusional and [you’ve] got rocks in your head,” Senator Lambie said.
Ms Lambie suggested defence spending should be doubled to prevent Australia from being enslaved by a “totalitarian foreign power” with an aggressive military.
Her leader sought to qualify his comments on Twitter, linking his statements to the Chinese business he is fighting in court rather than the Chinese people.
— Clive Palmer (@CliveFPalmer) August 18, 2014
However, Mr Carr warned that inflammatory comments about a trading partner from a sitting parliamentarian would not help to foster closer ties between the two nations.
“Chinese foreign policy professionals would know that Clive Palmer is a crossbench senator and is at odds with Chinese partners in his private business dealings. All countries have their insecurities and can produce a bit of paranoia from time to time.
“We can’t achieve any of our goals as a nation … without cooperation from China.
“Nobody is saying that we should be craven. Nobody is saying we can’t criticise China, but these comments are self-indulgent and reckless and Clive should be invited, in Australia’s interests, to correct them.”
Mr Palmer’s performance also triggered a storm of criticism from current members of parliament.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Fairfax Radio she planned to tell the Chinese embassy the Australian Parliament does not share Mr Palmer’s “abusive” views.
“It really isn’t appropriate for him to use a national television program to vent his bitterness about a legal dispute he is having with a Chinese company,” Ms Bishop said.
Treasurer Joe Hockey described Mr Palmer’s comments as “hugely damaging”.
“I’d say to Mr Palmer, please do not bring down the rest of Australia because of your biases,” Mr Hockey said.
“They are a business partner for Australia, they’re our biggest trading partner, they buy a lot of our produce, and in doing so they help to lift the quality of life for everyday Australians.”