China hits back at controversial Victorian infrastructure deal cancellation
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has shredded four state government deals with foreign nations in the first audit of major projects its kind.
The Australian government has shredded Victoria's controversial infrastructure agreement with China, earning the immediate ire of Beijing.
Two deals linked to China's Belt and Road Initiative were among four Victorian government agreements deemed to be "inconsistent with Australia's foreign policy or to our foreign relations", Foreign Minister Marise Payne said late on Wednesday.
The other two agreements ripped up in the first audit of major projects of its kind were with Iran and Syria, dating back as long as 22 years ago.
The move, amid already-heightened tensions with China, earned the immediate "strong displeasure and resolute opposition" of the Chinese embassy.
"This is another unreasonable and provocative move taken by the Australian side against China," a spokesperson said, in a statement.
"It further shows that the Australian government has no sincerity in improving China-Australia relations.
"It is bound to bring further damage to bilateral relations, and will only end up hurting itself."
Victoria's involvement with the Belt and Road Initiative has come under increasing scrutiny given Australia's tensions with China in recent months.
Premier Daniel Andrews has defended his state's agreement with China to support the $1.5 trillion plan from 2018.
The veto scheme giving the Foreign Minister the power to audit deals with foreign nations was introduced in December.https://twitter.com/MarisePayne/status/1384824961462726660
More than 1000 arrangements between states, territories, local governments and Australian public universities have already been submitted to the minister for consideration.
"The more than 1000 notified so far reflect the richness and breadth of Australia's international interests and demonstrate the important role played by Australia's states, territories, universities and local governments in advancing Australia's interests abroad," Ms Payne said.
Ms Payne said she would continue to consider submissions made under the scheme and "expect the overwhelming majority of them to remain unaffected".
As part of the first-ever audit, Ms Payne said she had approved a proposed memorandum of understanding on cooperation on human resources development in energy and mineral resources sector between the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation of the Government of Western Australia and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources of the Republic of Indonesia.
The four arrangements are:
- Memorandum of understanding between the Department of Education and Training (Victoria) and the Technical and Vocational Training Organisation, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Islamic Republic of Iran, signed 25 November 2004.
- Protocol of scientific cooperation between the Ministry of Higher Education in the Syrian Arab Republic and the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Training of Victoria, signed 31 March 1999.
- Memorandum of understanding between the government of Victoria and the National Development and Reform Commission of the People's Republic of China on cooperation within the framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, signed 8 October 2018.
- Framework agreement between the government of Victoria and the National Development and Reform Commission of the People's Republic of China on jointly promoting the framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, signed on 23 October 2019.