PM ‘didn’t support’ Victoria-China deal after US issues warning

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government never supported Victoria's Belt and Road deal with China, saying states should follow the federal government's lead on foreign policy.

"We didn't support that decision at the time they made it," Mr Morrison said on Sunday.

"National interest issues on foreign affairs are determined by the federal government.

"I respect their jurisdiction when it comes to the issues they are responsible for and it's always been the usual practice for states to respect and recognise the role of the federal government in setting foreign policy.

"I think that's always been a good practice."

Mr Morrison's comments come after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened the United States would "simply disconnect" from Australia if Victoria's Belt and Road agreement with China affects US telecommunications.

 

Mr Pompeo told Sky News Australia the Belt and Road agreement increased the Chinese communist regime's ability to do "harm".

The US Secretary of State said he did not know of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews' deal but warned it could impact America's Five Eyes partnership with Australia.

"We will not take any risks to our telecommunications infrastructure, any risk to the national security elements of what we need to do with our Five Eyes partners," he said.

"I don't know the nature of those projects precisely. To the extent they have an adverse impact on our ability to protect telecommunications from our private citizens, or security networks for our defence and intelligence communities - we simply disconnect, we will simply separate.

"We are going to preserve trust in networks … we hope our friends and allies, especially our Five Eyes partners like Australia, do the same."

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has defended the controversial deal. Picture: AAP
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has defended the controversial deal. Picture: AAP

Premier Daniel Andrews refused to respond to Mr Pompeo's comments, saying he had not seen them.

"With the greatest of respect, I'm not in the habit of commenting on what people tell me other people have said," he said.

"I would want to see Secretary Pompeo's comments out of respect for him and his office before I make any comment on that.

But, more broadly, Mr Andrews again defended the controversial deal and said it was "all about Victorian jobs".

"On the broader issue, my position on these matters is very well known, very well understood: it is all about Victorian jobs," he said.

"We will continue to work at a strong partnership. It doesn't mean we agree on everything, there are many things we don't agree on.

"But what I think all of us here and indeed both parts of our relationship - Victoria, Australia and China - surely we all have to concede and we all have to recognise that a strong partnership is in everybody's interests."

Originally published as PM 'didn't support' Victoria-China deal after US issues warning


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