Rudd warns against ‘anti-Chinese jihad’ in Canberra speech

A CHALLENGE::Kevin Rudd said the Australian government’s crackdown on foreign influence was going to extremes and called for more balance

The Guardian

Tue, Feb 13, 2018 - Page 1

Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has accused the Turnbull government of “neo-McCarthyism” over its foreign interference package, which aims to crack down on China’s influence in Australia.

Speaking at the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra yesterday, he said he disagreed with China on human rights questions, but Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had caused patriotic Chinese-Australians “unnecessary anxiety.”

Rudd’s comments follow the Australian Labor Party’s increasing hostility to the government’s proposed register of lobbyists for foreign interests, which has been subject to a widespread backlash due to fears that even benign contributions to public debate would be included.

Rudd said that his government took the role of Chinese organizations in Australian society seriously and was sometimes “in conflict with the interests of Beijing” over Tibet, the South China Sea and Chinese investment in Australian resource firms.

“But we did not see that as, therefore, the basis upon which to launch some anti-Chinese jihad of the type I have seen in the current political discourse by the government,” he said.

In December last year, then-Australian senator Sam Dastyari resigned over his connections to China and the Turnbull government introduced bills to ban foreign political donations.

Rudd said Turnbull had responded to the controversy around Dastyari and “as a result of that, after a period of time, Mr Turnbull found himself almost unable to control himself in terms of pursuing a domestic political agenda.”

Rudd called for a more balanced China strategy, “not one which begins to wave the flag of neo-McCarthyism in this country against the Chinese community that live here.”

“Speak to good patriotic Chinese-Australians about how they feel being fingered by Mr Turnbull generically, as a result of some of comments made, and we create an unnecessary feeling of anxiety,” he said.

Rudd agreed that foreign donations laws should be tightened, but blamed the Liberals for blocking an earlier bill to ban them.

He said that engaging with China was a challenge that required balance with liberal democratic values: “I think the Chinese one-party state, right across Asia and across the world, consistent with the behavior of other states, seeks to maximize its interests and influence.

The solution was to enforce existing laws on foreign investment and laws to prevent “any intrusion on Australian civil liberties,” he said.

Rudd said that universities should enforce their rules, but said Chinese student bodies in Oxford that were not endorsed by the Chinese embassy coexisted with those that were.

The focus of Rudd’s address yesterday was on closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Additional reporting by staff writer