Labor presses for access to China briefings

Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong. Source: AAP

Labor is pushing for department briefings on Australia's relationship with China to be shared with MPs amid hopes of fostering a better debate on the issue.

Labor has asked the Morrison government to give federal parliamentarians access to briefings on Australia's relationship with China, to help drive a "more informed" debate on the topic.

But cabinet minister Dan Tehan says the government will continue providing information on the issue in the way it has to date.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong says briefings from both the department of foreign affairs and the office of national intelligence should be shared with politicians.

"We are at a point where the relationship is more complex, also more consequential," Senator Wong told ABC's Insiders on Sunday.

"We should have a much more sensible and mature discussion about how we make it work for us....we should have a more informed debate."

Senator Penny Wong.
Senator Penny Wong.

The Senator will write to Foreign Minister Marise Payne formally making the request.

Mr Tehan said federal parliament's intelligence and security committee is where such briefings occur, and that's the way it should be.

"That is the most appropriate forum for MPs to get briefed, and that is what the government will continue to do," he said.

Senator Wong's comments come after Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie recently likened the global response to China's rise to Europe's lack of preparedness for the rise of Nazi Germany.

Andrew Hastie.
Andrew Hastie.

Mr Hastie, who chairs the intelligence and security committee, drew a mixed reaction from his coalition colleagues and condemnation from Beijing.

Senator Wong said backbenchers shouldn't define Australia's discussion about China.

But she believes they feel they should because Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne aren't stepping up.

"I think that has to change," she said.

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