Australia

Barnaby Joyce urges caution after Richard Marles breaks silence with Beijing

For the first time in more than two years, an Australian minister has spoken with their Chinese counterpart – but Barnaby Joyce is urging caution.

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has urged caution after Australia’s first ministerial contact with China in more than two years.

His successor, Defence Minister Richard Marles, had a “frank” discussion with his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe in Singapore on the weekend.

It’s the first time since early 2020 there has been any such high-level interaction between Canberra and Beijing.

Mr Marles said he raised the controversial attack on an Australian aircraft by a Chinese jet last month as well as broader issues in the Pacific.

Mr Joyce said while he welcomed the exchange, it did not change the hostile threat China continued to pose to Australia.

“They are a threat if they want to set up military bases near us and put lasers on to our Royal Australian Air Force patrols and if they want to put aluminium chaff into the engines, which could have brought down that P8 Poseidon aircraft with the death of the crew on-board, then that’s a threat,” Mr Joyce told Channel 7.

“I like the words, but let’s see the actions.

“The actions are that they stepped down from this forward push into our area, that they stop their military might that they’re using as a mechanism to put a foot on our throat – I’ll be as frank as that – to intimidate us.

“We’ve seen this before. We’ve seen the discussions, we’ve seen that everything is going to get better and at the same time they continue on with their plan in the background … (which) remains absolutely and utterly targeted, which is the domination of the South Pacific and the intimidation of us to work under their terms.”

Mr Joyce held firm against accusations his government had made a mistake in putting diplomatic distance between Beijing and Canberra, saying the Morrison government had “stood up” for Australia.

“You have to stand up for Australia and you have to be honest,” Mr Joyce said.

His co-panellist, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, said Mr Marles’ discussions with China had been a step in the right direction.

“Talking is always better than not talking. It was a very important meeting,” Ms Plibersek said.

“It gives us the opportunity to raise some of these issues.”

On Sunday, Mr Marles said his discussion with Mr Wei – a side talk at the Shangri-La Dialogue ministerial conference in Singapore – had been a “critical first step”.

“It was an opportunity to have a very frank and full exchange in which I raised a number of issues of concern to Australia, including the incident involving Australia’s P-8 aircraft on May 26 and Australia’s abiding interest in the Pacific and our concern to ensure that the countries of the Pacific are not put in a position of increased militarisation,” Mr Marles said.

Earlier in the day, he had delivered a speech to the conference in which he called on China to be transparent about its military build-up and criticised Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea.

“Australia and China’s relationship is complex, and it’s precisely because of this complexity that it is really important that we are engaging in dialogue right now,” he said.

Originally published as Barnaby Joyce urges caution after Richard Marles breaks silence with Beijing

Place of originBarnaby Joyce urges caution after Richard Marles breaks silence with Beijing

Back to top button