Australia

China's attack on Peter Dutton 'unwanted and unjustified'

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton Source: AAP

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has described China's attack on Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton as unwanted and unjustified after accusing him of being a mouthpiece for the United States.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has hit back at China's attack on Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton after he was accused of parroting US criticism of China's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Canberra had responded to Mr Dutton's call for more transparency about the origins of the coronavirus.

"Obviously he must have also received some instructions from Washington requiring him to co-operate with the US in its propaganda war against China," the spokesperson said.

Mr Frydenberg told ABC News Breakfast on Wednesday the spokesman's comments were "unwanted and unjustified", adding that senior government ministers would continue to speak up about issues in Australia's national interest.

Australia is pushing for an independent investigation into the spread and origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Australia is pushing for an independent investigation into the spread and origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
AAP

Mr Dutton had last week pointed to US State Department comments, who claimed it had "documentation" showing how the virus had spread.

He also called for more transparency from China on the matter.

"I don't think it's too much to ask — it would certainly be demanded of us, if Australia was at the epicentre of this virus making its way into society," Mr Dutton told the Nine Network.

He noted he had not seen the documents referred to by the US officials, prompting this response for the Chinese embassy in Canberra.

"What’s puzzling is without having seen the documentation, why he can’t wait to ask China to be "more transparent"?," the spokesperson said.

The embassy said the view showed "ignorance and bigotry" lamenting a broader concern of "Australian politicians" appearing "to parrot" US assertions.

"This fully exposes the former’s ignorance and bigotry as well as their lack of independence in serving orders from others, which is pitiful," the spokesperson said.

"It is well known that recently some people in the US including high level officials have been spreading anti-China “information virus.

"Their aim is to shift blame and deflect attention by smearing China. What they have done is neither moral nor helpful to solve their own problems."

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has also faced China's scorn after pushing for an independent review into the origins of coronavirus and questioning the communist country's transparency.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra.
AAP

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Senator Payne's views were not based on facts, accusing her of "dancing to the tune" of the United States.

But Australia is pushing ahead with a global push for the review, raising the issue with Germany and France.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia was committed to the independent inquiry despite China's concerns. 

"It’s not pursued as an issue of criticism, it’s pursued as an issue of importance for public health," he told reporters on Tuesday. 

“It’s important for public health globally that there is a transparency in the way you get access to this information early."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison talks to reporters.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison talks to reporters.
AAP

China has faced growing criticism of a lack of transparency since the coronavirus was found late last year in its city of Wuhan. 

But Beijing insists it reported the virus to the World Health Organization in a timely manner and has cooperated with international partners to prevent the pandemic.

US President Donald Trump has been a harsh critic of China’s response to the outbreak declaring Beijing should face “consequences” if it was knowingly responsible for the pandemic.

Mr Frydenberg said the commercial relationship with Australia's largest trading partner should continue despite occasional political and strategic disagreements.

“We obviously have some differences from time to time on the political and strategic levels. But, like with many countries, we make those points clear," he said.

"But ultimately Peter Dutton’s role, the Prime Minister’s role, my role, and all our colleagues’ roles, is to defend the Australian national interest, and that’s what we’ll continue to do." 

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