Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has conceded that his crackdown on foreign interference in domestic politics make have sparked some fires between Australia and its biggest trade partner.
These newest comments come after a report was published in which Peter Costello, former federal treasurer, said that Australia’s relationship with China was “strained at the moment”. Costello cited the fact that federal ministers have not attended a large scale conference occurring on the island of Hainan in China.
The event, known as the Boao Forum, is held annually each April. This year, China’s President, Xi Jinping, gave a major speech to attendees.
Prime Minister Turnbull said that Australia’s strategy to tackle foreign interference may have led to a few misunderstandings. He said that “there’s clearly been some tension” when talking about his legislation limiting the overseas donations members of parliament can accept without disclosure.
Despite this, Turnbull said the he was “very confident” that he will be able to resolve any misunderstandings with China.
Turnbull denied claims that China has refused to issue Australian ministers with visas, saying that there had been “mischaracterization” of Australian legislation within Chinese news media. He said that the diplomatic relationship was “very deep and extensive” but admitted that there were “differences of perception”.
He went on to say that Australia has a “very good relationship with China” and that he corresponds “regularly” with both China’s President and Premier. He also said that Australia has a “very strong and respectful relationship” with the Chinese and this means that “foreign influence in our politics” needed to be “open and declared”.
Turnbull doubled down on his assertion saying that “we don’t accept foreign interference” and that it is “not directed at any one nation”.
In the aforementioned report, Mr Costello said that “we go through these periods”, commenting that the relationship with China was similarly “strained during the Rudd years”. He said that it seems “strained at the moment” and he hopes that it can be resolved.
Even though Turnbull admitted that his legislation has caused “a degree of tension” he asserted that the laws were necessary. He said it was incredibly important that the government assures that “only Australians” are having a say in the Australian political process.
Opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten commented on the relationship with China saying that he saw “more turbulence” than anyone “would normally want to see”.