Defence Minister Peter Dutton has urged Australians to get real about China warning there’s “no point putting our head in the sand” over the risk posed by the emerging superpower.
Responding to China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claim that he is “driven by selfish political games”, Mr Dutton dismissed the comments as political rhetoric from the Chinese Communist Party.
”This is the propaganda of the Communist Party,’’ Mr Dutton said.
”We have a very close relationship with all of our partners, and we’re a responsible partner in the region.
“The Communist Party at the moment has 355 ships and submarines in her fleet,’’ he said.
“And by 2030 that goes to well over 400. So let’s be clear about where China is. They’ve got 20 points of presence in the South China Sea. They are bumping up against Japanese assets in the East China Sea. There’s $20 billion worth of economic coercion against our own country.”
Mr Dutton then went on to criticise Labor Senator Penny Wong’s speech suggesting the government was dialling up the rhetoric for domestic political purposes.
Asked on the ABC’s 7:30 about his statements that it was inconceivable that Australia would not back the US if there were ever a war with China over Taiwan, Mr Dutton denied he was ramping up the China threat to win the next election.
”Penny Wong’s speech today could have been written by Paul Keating and we saw his outburst at the press club only a couple of weeks ago and it’s only 68 days since Anthony Albanese said that he was in lock step with the government on AUKUS,’’ he said.
”I think when you look at what they have said, they are now starting to crab walk away from commitment to what is the biggest national security plan in recent history.
”I’m not making up the Communist Party’s approach to Taiwan. They have been clear about their intention, they have been clear about timelines, they have been clear about reunification.
”So if somebody thinks that we are exaggerating some of the difficulties and the concerns that we have in the Indo-Pacific, I think they are denying the reality of the situation within our own region.”
Mr Dutton said Australia was not prepared to surrender its sovereignty to China.
”I think if you look at what’s happening in the Indo-Pacific at the moment and you see the ramp up by the Communist Party of China, we need to be realistic about the threat now and over the course of the next couple of decades,’’ he said.
”And there is no sense sticking your head in the sand pretending it has not happening.”
Mr Dutton also backed the Prime Minister’s claim that he’s never told a lie in public life.
”Yes and I think if people are throwing around slurs in public life now which is way too easy with social media, we are all the subject of all sorts of vicious allegations and complaints, People say things now that I don’t think they would have said a decade or two ago. If somebody has got an allegation to make, they should make it,’’ he said.
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