Keating attacks Labor over China relations

Former prime minister Paul Keating has insisted China does not present a military threat against Australia in a strident criticism of a pact with the UK and US.

© David Moir/AAP PHOTOS Former Labor prime minister Paul Keating has criticised his party’s stance on China.

In a statement, Mr Keating said the new AUKUS arrangement meant Australia had forfeited military control, accusing Prime Minister Scott Morrison of having a “monster level of incompetence”.

The former leader also attacked his own party, including Anthony Albanese and foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong, saying Labor was complicit in the government’s foreign policy stance.

The opposition leader refuted the criticism, saying the strengthened US alliance was worth pursuing.

“I don’t, with respect, agree with the former prime minister,” Mr Albanese told ABC radio,

“I seek Paul Keating’s counsel regularly, and he’s always worth listening to, but the fact is that we’ve had an alliance with the United States since 1951.

“Labor has always, including when Paul was prime minister, put our national security interests front and centre.”

Labor has made its support for the AUKUS pact conditional on Australia not having a civil nuclear capability or nuclear weapons.

Video: ‘Leadership and stability’: Australia takes assertive role over security in Indo-Pacific (Sky News Australia)

Mr Albanese said despite Labor’s backing the deal, which paves the way for nuclear-powered submarines, he was critical of how the announcement was handled.

“There’s nuance when it comes to foreign policy,” he said.

“We’ve continued to forge our own path, which we will do in the future.”

Mr Keating criticised AUKUS as Australia going back towards a “jaded and faded Anglosphere” instead of pursuing further relations with Asian counterparts.

“The word ‘threat’ explicitly connotes military aggression or invasion, a threat China has never made against Australia, or even implied making,” he said.

Meanwhile, Australia has been urged to take China to the global trade umpire over a coal export ban.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has released a report into the future of iron ore exports to China, warning they could be used as a pawn in a bitter diplomatic dispute.

“”In the event that an iron ore glut emerges over coming years, Australian miners could be susceptible to the same kind of discriminatory action that China has taken against Australian coal,” it says.

“Australia could make it more difficult for China to take such a step by taking action now against China over its ban on Australian coal.”

Australia has taken China to the WTO over tariffs on barley and wine.

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