SENATOR THE HONOURABLE CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS

Transcript

2GB Radio (Alan Jones Show), 18 May 2020

SUBJECTS:

Chinese Communist Party, Coronavirus, Foreign Investment, Foreign Policy, South China Sea, Australian Taxpayers, Upholding Australian Values, Strengthening Alliances, Political Fortitude

 

E&OE …

Alan Jones:

None of this surprises Concetta Fierravanti-Wells who made a simple comment almost ten days ago, quote, “When I made comments about the Communist Party in China in 2017 and 2018, I was hung out to dry by Turnbull, Bishop, Payne, Birmingham and others”. She said the same group thinkers are still in cabinet and still in key portfolios. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells in on the line. Concetta good morning.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: Good morning Alan.

Alan Jones:

None of this surprises you.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

No, it doesn’t, it doesn’t surprise me at all but what is clear is that it cannot be business as usual with the communist regime in China after this pandemic. That is one thing that is clear, and I think when we look back in recent history the seeds of the predicament that we face today including those most critical years when Julie Bishop was foreign minister before she handed over to Marise Payne, very much reflected on China’s activities. The other thing is too let’s not forget that in 2000, 5 percent of our exports were to China and this rose to a massive 33 percent by 2018. So, we’ve got 26 percent of our two-way trade is with China and 33 percent of our exports are with China, so the reality is that we now have to look at what is our plan to decouple from China. We cannot continue to have this dependency on the communist regime and the pandemic has shown that. And also Alan, I think it’s really important, the costs of the pandemic are vast. Billons of taxpayer dollars have been expended because moneys had have to be borrowed and we the taxpayers of Australia have to repay that money and so therefore justifiability the Australian pubic want to know well are we going to get any compensation for this.

Alan Jones:

You’re saying, I don’t believe your words, there is sufficient political fortitude to push for reparation.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well since April I have really been advocating that the government should act on those things which I believe are in our direct control, namely, to come up with a plan for reparations and a plan to decouple from China. Look I have to say the push for an inquiry into the origins of the virus are commendable but the reality is that China will do everything in its power to avoid scrutiny and we’ve seen overnight the motion that is likely to go up and possibly be passed as being considerably watered down and just from an cursory reading doesn’t appear to even have a reference to China. And, we’ve also seen the whole issues of culpability of the Chinese regime in relation to its dealings with the World Health Organisation. In the whole…

Alan Jones:

Quiet quiet you’re telling lies. Just coming to your point there. I see the form of defence and security official and highly respected Peter Jennings said recently, quote, “China can do what they want, wherever they want, and I’ll never be punished for their behaviour because of the veneer of maintaining the relationship”. Do you agree with that?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well you have to; Peter’s absolutely correct and let’s not forget that only a year ago three Chinese wars ship were allowed to sail into Sydney harbour on the 30th Anniversary Tiananmen Square. So, in my view I think that we do have a long way to go. I think that by approving that visit to coincide with the anniversary of the massive massacre, not only was insensitive but it actually demonstrated that Beijing really does dictate terms and we just acquiesced. And so, in that instance Beijing won the psychological contest and so it doesn’t surprise me that we have tended to appease, we’ve tended to acquiesce, and this is all at the same time Alan, as our ships attempting to abide by international law. Exercising freedom of navigation exercises with our allies in the South China Sea are faced with the communist regime bellicose and illegal actions in the South China Sea. So, we’ve seen what’s happening in relation to our ships going off to Vietnam, so all of this is the background so therefore yes, we are going to have to demonstrate a lot of political fortitude.

Alan Jones:

But then Concetta, sorry to rush you there before you go, see what the public don’t understand, which I can’t comprehend, we have these Confucius Institutes all across Australia. We’ve got 14 of them in 13 universities. There’s one in the New South Wales Department of Education. We have 67 Confucius classrooms located in primary and secondary schools. They get funding from China and my understanding is they’re Australian universities hosting Chinese Government funded education centres who’ve signed agreements explicitly stating that those centres must comply with Beijing’s decision-making authority over teaching at these facilities. This hand ban is the Beijing based headquarters that funds and oversees these Confucius Institutes. How the hell has this been allowed to take root?

 

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well that, plus a whole range of other things, but when you’ve got a framework, a sympathetic framework I have to say, which I’ve referred to as a fellow traveller, foreign policy framework were those putting this framework and those people doing business with China were very happy to do so long as the rivers of gold continue to flows. Now whilst ever our foreign policy professes to be a projection of our values, we cannot allow commercial interest to cloud our judgement.

Alan Jones:

Okay look I’ve got to go to the news, I just want to finish this, a couple more things I want to ask you, we’ll come back after the news Concetta.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Okay.

 [News break]

Alan Jones:

Concetta just welcome back, could I just ask you a couple of things. The Prime Minister said, quote, at the end of last week, “we will always stand our ground when it comes to the things that we believe in and the values we uphold”. Have we? Will we?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well I don’t believe that we have thus far, I think that we have seen repeated instances where China has demonstrated that it doesn’t have the credentials of a good international citizen and I don’t believe that we’ve stood up to them. We know that there’s been cyberattacks, we know that they’ve been human rights abusers, we know what they’ve been up to in the South China Sea and I think what we’ve seen is we’ve been happy to do business, people have been happy to do business with them so long as the rivers of gold have flowed. Now I think that is now demonstrating that that’s a bad business model and things have to change and it will take a lot of fortitude for that to change because those rivers of gold are considerable.

Alan Jones:

Last week when Julie Bishop called for calm and considered diplomacy with China. You said that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister Julie Bishop had ignored your warning about China.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well you mentioned those things at the beginning I think that certainly when I made those comments, I felt that there was a decided sense, we don’t want to offend China. My criticisms though valid were not welcomed. I never saw a clear strategy, what the strategy was with China if there is one. I certainly wasn’t privy to it. But in any case, I knew what the issues were in the Pacific, I pushed very hard for the Pacific to be one of those five priorities. Our allies had excepted us to look after our backyard, to work in the Pacific and I think that we let them down and I think that we didn’t do what we should have done. We dropped the ball in the Pacific but with the Pacific step up I think that we’re witnessing a roll out of much of the work that I started as Minister although I have concerns about some of the issues. But in any case, when I did resign Alan and you know I resigned in August from the turn 2018 from the Turnbull ministry, I actually did refer to that in my resignation letter…

Alan Jones:

You did indeed, you did indeed.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…expressing my disappointment but before we finish this interview Alan, I did want to say thank you for giving people like myself who have honest and forthright views the opportunity to speak out. And thank you for standing up for the values, the concerns of the silent majority of Australia because there aren’t many places where we are able to express our views. And I want to thank you for the work you have done over many, many years but for also asking those uncomfortable questions of politicians because that’s a vitally important for the public discourse.

Alan Jones:

That’s very kind of you Concetta, I did want to ask you perhaps one final and uncomfortable question which I think people out there listening wouldn’t fully understand. When the Prime Minister says we want to stand our ground when it comes to these things and believe in the values we uphold and so on. Surely if we’re talking about power, naked power in the region, China cannot be more powerful than the collective of American, Japan, India, Australia, throw in Indonesia and Vietnam if you like, if you like. Isn’t that what we should be working towards?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Absolutely Alan and that’s my point and that’s why I made those comments in relation to what’s happening in the South China Sea. I think its incumbent on Australia to increase its involvement with its allies especially the United States in calling out, calling out the communist regime for its bellicose and their legal actions. Not just in the South China Sea but in other parts of the world and that really is, we are a democracy…

Alan Jones:

Work together.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…this is a totalitarian regime…

Alan Jones:

It is.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…it is not a market economy…

 

Alan Jones:

Say it as it is.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…it is a totalitarian regime and as you know we need to work that our because they don’t abide by the same values and beliefs and they don’t operate on the same level and according to the same values as we do and we’ve got to stick by those values…

Alan Jones:

Good on you.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…not just in words but in deeds.

Alan Jones:

Good on you and that’s what Prime Minster Scott Morrison said but now that’s rhetoric. We will always stand our ground when it comes to the things we believe in and the values we uphold. I don’t think we did that over the Port of Darwin. Alright Concetta lovely to talk to you. Thank you for your time.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Thanks very much Alan.

 

[ends]