Former foreign minister Julie Bishop has been at the receiving end of an extraordinary attack from a former colleague after urging calm and considered diplomacy with China.
Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who was a junior minister to Ms Bishop, was absolutely scathing.
“Another air-head comment from the ‘couch’. We had six years of ‘Instagram diplomacy’ that ignored CCP skulduggery and ‘debt trap diplomacy’,” she tweeted.
— Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (@Senator_CFW) May 12, 2020
Ms Bishop has advocated more work behind the scenes to persuade China to endorse an independent global inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus.
Ms Fierravanti-Wells has previously called on the Coalition government to lessen Australia’s economic dependence on China and seek compensation for the impact of the coronavirus.
As a permanent member of the [United Nations] Security Council, China “has a unique responsibility as a permanent member to maintain international peace and security, and without a doubt this pandemic is a threat to international security,” Ms Bishop told Nine newspapers.
However Senator Fierravanti-Wells has previously claimed the UN system is “mired by inefficiencies, duplication and undue political influences by totalitarian states that use the multilateral system to further their political ends.”
Ms Fierravanti-Wells is demanding Australia be paid “reparations” from China over coronavirus.
“It is incumbent on the government to investigate all possible ways to recover damages for health costs and damage to our economy,” she told Parliament.
The former Pacific and international development minister urged Australia to diversify trade relationships.
She wants the lease of Darwin’s port to a Beijing-linked company reviewed, while also warning against predatory investment.
“I am concerned that the CCP is taking advantage of the pandemic to further its insidious debt-trap diplomacy by taking advantage of economically stressed nation-states through the Belt and Road Initiative,” she said.
Liberal senator James Paterson took aim at Australian universities’ reliance on international students, particularly from China.
“Relying on students from China disproportionately is not the same as being reliant on any other country,” he told the upper house.
“The Chinese Communist Party rules China in an authoritarian way and its values are very different from ours.”
South Australian Liberal Alex Antic accused China of dictating terms on crucial goods, saying Australia needed to ramp up manufacturing to reduce reliance on its biggest trading partner.
“The CCP’s efforts in arranging for companies linked to the regime to ship tonnes of medical and personal protective equipment back to China sounded the alarm bells for many,” he told Parliament.
“It has trained a spotlight on the need to return manufacturing to Australia and, in the process, the need to shore up our national security and sovereign interests.”