Labor politician Joel Fitzgibbon has again cautioned against offending China by investigating the origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan.
Speaking on ABC’s Insiders this morning, the former defence minister, who has been criticised for going against party lines in relation to China, said it was “silly” to challenge Australia’s relationship with our biggest trading partner, but made one exception.
The Opposition frontbencher aired support for the Prime Minister’s decision to announce “safe haven” visas for people affected by the protests in Hong Kong, even if it meant offending the Chinese Government. He said the wellbeing of the Hong Kong people should take priority.
“We are a wealthy responsible country, and of course the Labor Party has a great history here, with Tienanmen Square under Bob Hawke,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“We should take every opportunity, working with the global community, to do what we can to give safe haven to those who might in any way be threatened or disadvantaged by what‘s happening in Hong Kong.”
“Even if offends China?” questioned host David Speers.
“I said earlier when things are necessary of challenging our relationship, so be it,” Mr Fitzgibbon replied. “But it’s not necessary to do it unnecessarily.”
Asked about previous remarks he made criticising the Morrison Government’s push for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, he said: “We have to take no step backwards on our national interest and be most robust in defence of them. But, there‘s a thing called diplomacy, and we don’t unnecessarily have to be criticising the Government of China, when there’s no need to be doing so.
“The idea of sending UN weapons-style inspectors into Wuhan without the consent of the Chinese Government, is just a silly thing to say, an unnecessary thing to say, and it just challenges our trading relationship with our biggest trading partner.”
It comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday offered support for safe haven visas for up to 20,000 Hong Kong residents currently living in Australia.
Australia is now preparing to offer safe haven visas to thousands of Hong Kong residents living here who don’t want to return home in the wake of China’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
The safe haven visas could allow the Hong Kong residents to live, work or study in Australia for years and possibly permanently.
The Prime Minister said he was disturbed by the latest clashes over the new “national security laws” that saw 370 protesters arrested as police fired teargas, pepper spray and water cannons at thousands of people.
He also signalled he was prepared to offer safe haven visas as Britain has confirmed it will also offer them to those fleeing the regime.
“The answer to both questions is yes and yes. In the first instance, we do find these events very concerning and we have been very clear about our statement to that in concert with many other nations,’’ Mr Morrison said.
“This is not a position Australia has commented on in isolation. The basic law and the safeguards that were put in place with the handover (of Hong Kong to China), we would expect to be upheld.
“I think that’s a very reasonable position and a very consistent position for the Government. We are considering very actively and there are proposals that I asked to be brought forward several weeks ago and the final touches would be put on those and they’ll soon be considered by Cabinet.
“When we have made a final decision on those arrangements, then I’ll make the announcements, but are you asking are we prepared to step up and provide support? The answer is yes.”
Originally published as ‘Silly’: MP cautions against offending China