Australia

Morrison says 'no difference' with Bishop on China relationship

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison says reports Julie Bishop contradicted him about Australia's relationship with China are a beat up.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has played down a reported split with former foreign minister Julie Bishop after she disagreed with his characterisation of China as a "customer". 

Mr Morrison told reporters on Tuesday that there was "no difference" in his and former foreign minister Julie Bishop on Australia's relationship with China.  

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and former deputy leader Julie Bishop at the West Australian Liberal Party campaign rally in Perth, Monday, May 13, 2019. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and former deputy leader Julie Bishop at the West Australian Liberal Party campaign rally in Perth.
AAP

"I spoke to Julie yesterday, and she sent me a text this morning and she said 'There's no difference of view between her and I' and she called that issue a beat-up.

"That's what Julie texted me today to say. So, I'm not going to be distracted by those issues going into the course of the election."

The Prime Minister raised eyebrows on Monday when he described China as "customers".

Mr Morrison made the comments when describing how Australia can maintain good relationships with China and the United States despite trade tensions between the two great powers.

"You don't have to pick sides in that. You don't have to walk away from the relationships that you have," Mr Morrison told reporters.

"You stand by your friends and you stand by your customers as well."

Ms Bishop had a different opinion, however, while joining the PM at a rally in Perth. 

"I don't see it that way at all," Ms Bishop told reporters in Perth.

"I think our relationship with China is one of deep and mutual respect.

"We are partners. We are trading partners. We have worked together in a whole range of areas.

"And so, the relationship is one of equals."

Ms Bishop and Mr Morrison both attended the rally on Monday, as the Prime Minister's campaign trail returned to Western Australia. 

Elsewhere, the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Australia and the US are long-standing allies, but that didn't mean China should be written off.

"I think we need a bit more sophistication from the people who want to be prime minister than simply telling one of the largest countries on earth that we just see you as 'customers,'" Mr Shorten told reporters in Gosford.

Shorten
Bill Shorten greeting students during a visit to St. Joseph's Catholic College in East Gosford on Monday.
AAP

"I don't look at China, or Japan, or Korea or Indonesia just as customers. I see them as very complex, dynamic societies.

"I see a much more sophisticated relationship than viewing China as some sort of customer going through the Australian Mc-drive-through and saying, 'What can we get from you?'"

Bishop's future

Ms Bishop, who is not contesting the election, refused to say whether the Liberal Party would be in better shape if she and Malcolm Turnbull were still in charge.

"That's a hypothetical - there's no point in looking back - we just look forward," she said.

"I think Scott Morrison will continue to be a very fine prime minister."

Ms Bishop has previously ruled out accepting a foreign posting when she walks away from politics.

It appears Joe Hockey's recent decision to finish up as US ambassador hasn't changed her mind.

"I have had the number one diplomat's job in Australia - I was foreign minister for five years," Ms Bishop told reporters.

"That's the best job you can have in the foreign service in Australia, I can assure you."

Ms Bishop said she would pursue work in the private sector, rather than a government job.

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