Foreign Relations Bill

10 November 2020

Since the Morrison Government announced the Foreign Relations Bill, Labor has made it clear we support its objectives. Australia should speak with one voice internationally.

Regrettably, this Bill is the sloppy result of a prime minister who puts his political interest above the national interest.

It was announced in haste before it was ready – and before affected entities were consulted – just so Scott Morrison could change the headlines from the tragic neglect in aged care on the same day his Minister walked out on scrutiny in the Senate.

That is not responsible stewardship of Australia’s national interest.

Labor calls on the Morrison Government to rewrite the legislation and focus on delivering robust, carefully written laws – instead of just grabbing headlines.

If the Government refuses to do this, Labor will do what it can to amend the Bill, focusing on flaws identified through the Senate committee process, including:

  • The lack of requirement for the Minister to provide reasons for terminating arrangements made by states, local governments and universities;
  • The lack of clear definitions of critical terms, and broad discretion for interpretation that exposes tens of thousands of contracts to sovereign risk;
  • No capacity for oversight or review of ministerial decisions; and
  • Uncertainty around the Bill’s effect on the 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin to a Chinese company.

Even the majority report of the Senate committee – written by Morrison Government Senators – recommends further consultation to resolve major questions.

This Bill is a patch-up job to make up for this Government’s seven years of failure to protect Australia’s national interest. They have:

  • Encouraged Australian universities to become more reliant on income from international education;
  • Overseen Australian exporters becoming 18 per cent more reliant on a single market, with no plan to help them diversify or survive through tough times;
  • Signed a secret Federal Belt and Road deal in 2017; and
  • Allowed the 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin to a Chinese company.

We look forward to the Morrison Government giving this proposed Bill further consideration – and invite them to work in a bipartisan way to advance our shared national interest.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.