Opposition leader Peter Dutton has waved off criticisms from former prime minister Scott Morrison over concerns about Anthony Albanese’s upcoming trip to China.
Mr Dutton said he would be surprised if the PM didn’t raise human rights issues with President Xi Jinping during his visit later this year.
Mr Morrison reportedly warned against Mr Albanese’s trip to Beijing in a briefing earlier this week declaring he was proud his government had “stood up to China” through the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal.
On Friday, Mr Dutton said while he understood Mr Morrison’s call, Australia was shifting its gears on its approach to China making Mr Albanese’s trip come at an appropriate time.
“Firstly, was China upset about the AUKUS deal? Yes. But was it the right decision? Absolutely. And that was vindicated by the fact that the current government signed up to it,” he told ABC Radio.
“I've been very clear about the fact that we want China to be a very strong trading partner, but there are issues where we do have a point of difference.
“There are other points of aggravation, but Australia has changed its values under more Liberal-Labor governments [..] with its approaches to human rights aspects, that rightly should be raised.”
Mr Albanese will be the first prime minister to visit China in seven years when flies to Beijing later this year under an invitation from President Xi Jinping.
This came after the Prime Minister held backroom talks with Beijing's second-in-command, Premier Li Qiang, during his trip to Jakarta for the South East Asia Summit on Thursday.
The Prime Minister is expected to raise a number of trade and security related issues, including human rights cases in Hong Kong and Tibet, as well as pleading the case for three Australians currently facing the death penalty in China.
Human rights groups released statements against the Albanese government last week on behalf of the Uyghur community in Australia slamming the Mr Albanese’s and Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s “ inaction” on reported instances of forced detention and abuse.
Mr Dutton said he would be surprised if the Prime Minister did not choose raise human rights concerns alongside attempts to relieve punitive trade tariffs.
“My view is it’s appropriate for the prime minister to go because he’s got, firstly, an invitation but he’s also got a list of issues to raise and he obviously believes that he can get some way in relation to the relief around the tariffs that have been imposed,”
“Human rights issues obviously remain paramount, particularly in relation to Australian citizens,” Mr Dutton said.
“China is an incredibly important trading partner for us and we want to have peace and stability [ …] and I'm sure that will be the basis of the conversation.”