Turnbull Visit to China & Stone on Split Within Liberal Party

Turnbull in China

Turnbull’s 36 hour visit to China and his  meetings (and banquets) there with President Xi and Premier Le Keqiang may have enhanced his role as a PM able to get on with important leaders from other countries. Many of his reported comments also appeared to be designed to show that he is knowledgeable about Chinese history. But the question is whether anything came out of the visit.

Before he went Andrew Bolt wrote that it was more important to minimise domestic differences between different races and religions at home, including those involving Australian Chinese (see Bolt on Turnbull China Visit). In fact, while more may have occurred behind the scenes at Turnbull’s meetings, the published material on the visit does seem to indicate that the visit was little more than a  formality.

Turnbull’s Keynote Address said very little that was not already known about our trade and he appears to have made no complaint about “cheap” Chinese steel being sent into export markets. The US has initiated some anti-dumping action and the UK has been strongly critical too. The fact that our iron ore exports to China are used by it to make steel should not mean that we refrain from anti-dumping.  According to one report, Turnbull was told by Premier Le that China “was trying to reduce its steel production by 150 million tonnes a year” (see Turnbull’s China Visit). Was that a sufficient assurance designed to prevent  any move by Australia to institute an anti-dumping inquiry? We don’t know the government’s policy on that.

In regard to the South China Sea, at the same time as Turnbull urged all claimants to “settle any territorial disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law”, US Defence Secretary Carter cancelled a planned trip to Beijing in protest against China’s ongoing land dispute. It is reported that the US is moving war planes to the Philippines and is mounting a major deployment in SE Asia “as Washington and its allies mount a coordinated response to Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China sea”. Turnbull made no mention of whether Australia is in fact part of this response.

Stone on Liberal Party

On the day Turnbull was meeting President Xi, John Stone had an article published on line by the AFR (see Stone on Liberal Party) drawing attention to the 43 members and senators who wrote to Turnbull asking that changes be made to the policy on the Safe Schools program. This issue has been the subject for some time of strong complaints by those described as conservatives within the party. However, those signing the letter apparently included many who voted for Turnbull to take over from Abbott. That Turnbull made appropriate changes  indicates that he continues to make important decisions without proper consultation with the party members and, as Stone says, with “his personal far-left stance on such matters”.

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