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Speech to the ANZSOG 2017 China Advanced Leadership Program, Canberra

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May I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands on which we are meeting this morning, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, and by paying our respects to their elders past and present.

On behalf of the Federal Opposition, welcome to the Parliament of Australia. This is the place where, in March this year, Premier Li Keqiang spoke to Australian politicians about China’s approach to its relationship with Australia. This is also the place where, just over three years ago, President Xi Jinping spoke of his affection for Australia and his hopes for the future of the relationship between Australia and China.

So it is appropriate, I think, that we should be meeting here today, particularly in view of the fact that the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has just recently set out the path of China’s economy for the next five years.

In this context, I would like to outline the importance that the Federal Opposition continues to attach to Australia’s relationship with China.

As you would all appreciate, Australia’s democracy is based on a contest between political parties for government. As Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, I represent the alternative government. So the positions I am putting to you this morning are the outline of a future Shorten Labor Government’s China policies.

The starting point for Australia’s relationship with China is Australia’s national interests. Australia’s national interests focus on four elements: our national security; our economic

prosperity; regional stability reflecting the rule of law; and a constructive approach to international cooperation.

In his address to the 19th National Congress, President Xi set out China’s national interests. We should not ignore the differences between the national interests of Australia and China. But the national interests of Australia and China are compatible in many respects, and these similarities are what we should work on to enhance the relationship.

A clear understanding and expression of national interests gives clarity to the establishment and pursuit of long term bilateral relationships.

It also enables us to rise above the false dichotomy, as perceived by some commentators, which claims that Australia must ultimately choose between our economic relationship with China and our security relationship with the United States.

Australia must always act in terms of its national interests, not in reaction to a competition between the interests of others. As I have said elsewhere, Labor’s policy will not start or finish in deciding between China and the US, but instead, in continually deciding for us.

The second plank of Labor’s relationship with China is an acceptance of the fact that both of us live in a world that is changing rapidly and unpredictably. We live in a time of disruption.

China’s unprecedented economic growth has delivered enormous benefits to the people of China, as it has to the countries, such as Australia, that trade with China. But it has also changed the global economic balance in significant ways, and responses to those changes are themselves creating uncertainties.

To manage this age of disruption, countries need to cooperate rather than confront.

The third plank of Labor’s relationship with China is our intention to work with China as it is, not as others represent China to be, and not as China sometimes represents itself to be. There is much that we do not know or understand about China, its aspirations and how it intends to realise those aspirations.

In his speech to the 19th National Congress, President Xi said that as China moves closer to the centre stage it will make greater contributions to mankind. No one has reason to fear power when power is exercised responsibly. Just as China has brought hundreds of millions of its own citizens out of poverty, so has it made hundreds of millions of the world’s citizens more prosperous. So it is important that the nature of China’s future contributions to mankind is transparent.

The fourth plank of Labor’s relationship with China is to accord to China the priority it merits. China is a truly remarkable nation. It is an even more remarkable civilisation, its cultural influences extending far beyond its own borders.

Australians respect China and what it has achieved since the end of the Cultural Revolution. We recognise that China has taken its place among the world’s powers, and that China is important both as a contributor to the further development of an international rules-based order and as an adherent to those rules.

As a nation of immigrants, including over half a million Australians born in China and nearly one and a half million Australians claiming Chinese ancestry we enjoy a wealth of historical and cultural ties with many countries. But we manage our bilateral relationships in terms of our national interests.

The fifth plank of Labor’s relationship with China is to strengthen and deepen the many strands of the bilateral relationship through a more integrated and coordinated approach to relationship management. Your attendance here this morning is only one example of how we are working to improve mutual understanding.

A Labor Government will invest in enhanced dialogue at both the government and non-government levels through a greatly enhanced one-and-a-half-track dialogue as well as enhanced official engagement.

And the sixth plank of Labor’s relationship with China is to develop our bilateral relationship within the context of the regional environment in which we operate. We work with China in a regional framework, recognising that this is the region in which we both live, and the importance of the rules based order that has underpinned stability and prosperity to the benefit of both our nations, and the region. This includes our relationships with our neighbours, most particularly in Southeast and East Asia.

It also includes our long-standing alliance and security partnership with the US. And it is underpinned by a clear understanding of our national interests and values.

From both an economic and a security perspective, the power relationship between China and the United States plays out in Southeast and East Asia. We have deeply invested interests in Southeast and East Asia, where building a stable, co-operative strategic system anchored in the rule of law goes to the heart of our own national security.

This will also contribute to China’s security.

As representatives of China’s emerging cohort of leaders, increasingly it will be your duty to enhance China’s economic prosperity, social harmony and national security. As representatives of the second largest economy in the world, there is much you can teach us. And as a strong, open and resilient nation, co-located in the Asia-Pacific region, I am equally sure there is much Australia can offer you too.

Labor has a proud history of forging relations in Asia:

 Gough Whitlam, who led Australia into Asia, building a base for robust bilateral rela tions in the region, including through establishing diplomatic relations with

China;  Hawke and Keating, who orchestrated Australia's own “pivot to Asia”;  Paul Keating who personally forged an independent middle-power role for


ustralia in Asia, recognising a singular truth - that our geography could be turned to our advantage; and  Rudd and Gillard who upgraded diplomatic relations with China, established a


igh-level dialogue, and sought to advance Australia’s place in Asia through the Australia in the Asian Century white paper.

A Shorten Labor Government looks forward to building on these great traditions, and we know that if we want to get it right with Asia, we need to get it right with China.