Well, just hours after China’s deputy mission head of mission in Australia, Wang Xining, admitted there were “some shadows” over the relationship between the two countries, the federal government announced it is seeking new powers to review and stop agreements it judges to impact foreign relations.
That means state, territory and local governments (as well as universities) from be prevented or must cease entering arrangements which are considered to be detrimental to Australia’s foreign policy positions.
And what would that mean?
Well, for starters, Victoria’s belt and road initiative would be one of the first under the microscope.
As Murph and Dan Hurst report:
A planned stocktake of existing agreements will be broader than Victoria’s politically controversial belt and road agreement, but that deal has been viewed with concern by Australia’s national security establishment and it has also attracted criticism from the United States.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, used an interview in May to leave open the possibility of suspending some forms of information sharing with Australia if the Victorian deal resulted in projects that affected the safety of security networks.
Within hours the US ambassador to Australia, Arthur Culvahouse Jr, clarified that the US had “absolute confidence in the Australian government’s ability to protect the security of its telecommunications networks and those of its Five Eyes partners” and Pompeo was simply answering questions about “very remote” hypotheticals.
Closer to home, that most likely means another constitutional fight will be hashed out in the high court.
The federal government claimed intergovernmental immunity to stop officials from appearing at the NSW Ruby Princess special inquiry.
But is now flipping that to say it has powers to cancel agreements made by other jurisdictions. Can’t say the states will be too happy with that.
But the federal government does have responsibility over foreign affairs. So it will be a pretty big grey zone the high court will be asked to colour in one way or the other. It won’t be quick, or easy, so pay attention to what comes next.
Australia’s increasingly tense relationship with the CCP is one of the issues which has been bubbling away under the surface during the pandemic, but aged care remains the focus domestically.
Anthony Albanese will address the National Press Club today, with a speech titled “Government by neglect”. The aged care royal commission’s interim report released in October last year was called “Neglect”,if you were looking for clues over what that was about.
Meanwhile, Victoria is approaching the end of its fourth week with Melbourne under lockdown, and people are looking for some “what comes next” hope from premier Daniel Andrews. He is coming up to his 50th straight daily press conference, but in a sign that things look to have turned a corner, there has not been a lot of new Covid announcements in his daily briefings lately, outside the latest data.
We don’t know what stage three will look like for Melbourne, but we hope to find out soon.
NSW is still worried about low levels of community transmission – it recorded five mystery cases yesterday, from about 13,000 tests, which is keeping authorities on alert, while Queensland is crossing its fingers it has caught any lingering cases, recording just one positive diagnosis from 20,000 tests – and that person had been in isolation as a close contact of a known case.
We’ll keep you updated on all the political and Covid news as it happens.
You have Amy Remeikis with you for the day. Once I hunt down a coffee, we’ll be right into it.
Source: The Guardian