SENATOR THE HONOURABLE CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS

Transcript

Sky News (Chris Smith Tonight), 14 May 2020

SUBJECTS:

Chinese Communist Party, Inquiry into Coronavirus, The United Nations, Chinese Reparations to Australia, Decoupling from Chinese Trade, Debt-Trap Diplomacy, Former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

 

E&OE …

[05:54]

 

Chris Smith:

Well we’ve had some wild words come from the mouths of several Liberal MP’s this week.  It’s occurred on twitter, it’s occurred in the parliament, it’s also occurred in written form in the Courier Mail from George Christensen and their anger towards China and how we should respond.  Now this is all as a result of the prime ministers call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the pandemic.  China has not thrown a few derogatory descriptions our way, they’ve thrown plenty.  But they’ve also now boycotted our beef and barley, and there may be more to come.  Now one of those MP’s have given China a cob full and collected former foreign minister Julie Bishop on the way through, is Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and she joins me now from Parliament House. Concetta thank you very much for your time.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:  

Hi Chris, how are you?

Chris Smith:

I’m very very well, I’ll tell you what you didn’t miss.  We’ll get to those statements in just a short while.  Let’s look at China’s reluctance to hold an inquiry into the origins of the pandemic.  Have they got additional things to hide do you think?  Or is this purely a cultural way of, trying not to say, not to lose face in the eyes of the world?

 

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: 

Look, Chris, China has a long history with pandemics.  I mean, let’s go back in history going back to the plague of Justinian in 541 I think, and so when you start looking at that black plague and you look at all sorts of pandemics, it’s been the source of many of those in history.  Look, we are dealing with a totalitarian regime and totalitarian regimes by their very nature are secretive.  They don’t abide by the same set of rules that democratic countries like Australia do.  And what we have seen is very typical of what has happened in the past.  We saw that after the SARS outbreak the World Health Organization revised its regulations.  But, of course, the communist regime didn’t learn the lessons from the SARS outbreak and we’re seeing history repeating itself.  Now, Chris whether it came out of the wet markets or whether it came out of a laboratory, the reality is the virus originated in China and therefore there is legitimate reason to hold China culpable for what has happened as a consequence of the Wuhan corona virus.

Chris Smith:

Does that mean you think that they should be paying reparations as well?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: 

Look, I think that Chris there are two things that Australian’s are now expecting post virus and post pandemic.  One is, that our government has the political and necessary political fortitude to do those things which are in our control to do and they are a plan to consider reparations and a plan to decouple from China.  Because we cannot go back to business as usual after this pandemic, and Australian’s are expecting us to change our dealings with the communist regime in China.

Chris Smith:

The United Nations claimed to be all about the safety and security of mass populations, especially those who are less fortunate than Western Countries.  With that in mind, how can China remain in the United Nations, on the basis that they don’t think its informative at the very very least, to have an inquiry into how we got a pandemic in the hope of not having another pandemic?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: 

Look Chris, I think that it’s commendable to push for an inquiry, but the reality is that given China’s veto and the veto framework with in the United Nations, and we do know that the United Nations is an entity that has had problems with lack of efficiency, with all sorts of problems have beset the United Nations.  And so, I do not believe that the communist regime will ever cooperate with any inquiry and so hence my point Chris that it’s important for us and for the Australian public to pursue those things that are important and those things that are within our own control.  And that is a plan to look at reparations and a plan to decouple from China.  And we know that there’s been some very very good work that’s been done by the Henry Jackson Society, a leading UK think-tank, which has actually prepared a very good paper entitled ‘Corona Virus Compensation’ and that details in quite explicitly avenues that are open to countries, to the world, to pursue the communist regime in relation to this pandemic.  Indeed, they’re talking about suing China for 6.5 trillion dollars.  That’s one component.  The other component, and probably the most important, is that we look at some plan to decouple from China.  We cannot have a quarter of our two-way trade eggs in one basket.

Chris Smith:

No

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: 

We cannot have 33% of our exports going to one country, or be it, that they are exports which are vital to China’s economic growth such as iron ore, coal and gas, and of course food to help it feed its 1.3 billion people.

Chris Smith:

Yes exactly, they need us as well, although they’re not showing it at the moment.  I want to ask you about the words that were written on twitter as a result of Julie Bishop talking about quiet diplomacy.  In reference to China’s lashing out at Australia in the beef and barley ban they’ve got on us at the moment and your reaction was “…Another air head comment from the couch. We’ve had six years of Instagram diplomacy that ignored China’s communist party skulduggery and ‘debt trapped diplomacy’”.  Julie Bishop was not your favoured foreign minister Concetta?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: 

Well Chris can I say that those comments are made in the context of when I was Minister for International Development.  I travelled extensively around the world and most especially in the Pacific.  I did about 35 trips to the Pacific.  I gave warnings about what China was doing, in most especially in the Pacific, its activities particularly in relation to debt trap diplomacy. I saw firsthand what was happening out there and regrettably…

Chris Smith:

And before you leave that, in other words for those who don’t know, prop up the minnow nations, give them as much money as they want and then have them in your debt for the rest their history.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: 

Well basically its infrastructure based and so what happens is that you lend money for a piece of infrastructure.  They can’t sustain payment of that debt and then of course normally this has been a debt for equity situation and so what happens when they can’t pay the debt but the asset reverts to usually the communist party entity that has leant the money or the bank or the Chinese bank that’s leant the money.  So, we saw this, I mean let’s not forget that the Pacific…

Chris Smith:

And so, what Julie Bishop didn’t act on what you’ve seen?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: 

Well what I’m saying Chris is that at the time is was very clear what was happening, not just in the Pacific but in other parts of the country, other parts of the world and so I pushed very strongly for the Pacific to be one of our five priorities.  I pushed very strongly for us to have a much more Pacific focused overseas development assistance.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: 

But regrettably Chris, what we have seen, I believe, has been a foreign policy, a fellow traveller foreign policy, adopted by those who have and those who have been having dealings with communist regime in China.  Basically, turning a blind eye to what China was doing to China’s skulduggery and we know what that is…all the…all the…

Chris Smith:

And Julie Bishop was one of the great offenders, was she?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: 

Well I’m just saying Chris that…that…

Chris Smith:

Well she was the foreign minister?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: 

She was the foreign minister and I believe that more could have been done at that time.

Chris Smith:

Okay.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: 

In relation to what was happening with China and let’s not forget that those were very critical years where a lot of this was happening and so that’s really the point that I’m making.  Of course, my comments in January 2018 have been totally vindicated.  As we see what China has been doing around the world.

Chris Smith:

Alright I like your fire.  I like your passion in particular.  Thank you very much for your time this evening and explaining all of that.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: 

Thanks very much Chris.

Chris Smith:

Okay.  Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.

 

[ends]