Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson has spoken to the Chinese ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye after Cheng criticised the Australian government.
In a recent interview with the Australian Financial Review, Cheng said Scott Morrison’s push for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic could lead to a boycott from the people of China, risking economic repercussions.
He also repeated recent criticisms that Australia was “teaming up” with the US government to “launch a kind of political campaign against China”.
“It’s a kind of pandering to the assertions that are made by some forces in Washington,” he said.
Cheng suggested Chinese tourists and students may stop visiting Australia, and the public may choose not to consume Australian products.
“The Chinese public is frustrated, dismayed and disappointed with what Australia is doing now,” he said.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham on Tuesday told ABC News Adamson had called the ambassador following the comments, but wouldn’t reveal details of the discussion.
“That’s for the ambassador to choose to make public,” he said.
He said the federal government would continue to push for an investigation.
“Australia is no more going to change our policy position on a major public health issue because of economic coercion or threats of coercion, than we would change our policy position in matters of national security,” he said.
However, he noted Australia was still keen to maintain a positive relationship with China.
“Our economy is a crucial supplier to the Chinese economy, just as China’s economy supplies valuable goods, resources and services to Australia’s economy,” he said.
“We want to maintain that positive relationship and enhance it where we can.”
Scott Morrison, foreign affairs minister Marise Payne, and home affairs minister Peter Dutton have all vocalised their support for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, calling for transparency from the Chinese government.