7 March 2024

I’m Paul from the past and I’m here to help: Labor legend launches word grenade on China approach

| Chris Johnson
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Penny Wong

Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong has hit back at more foreign policy criticism from Paul Keating. Photo: Facebook.

Former Labor prime minister Paul Keating has once more turned the spotlight on Australia’s current foreign policy approach by trying his best to rain on Anthony Albanese’s parade.

While the actual PM was busy hosting ASEAN leaders and conducting a string of bilaterals with his Southeast Asian counterparts, the PM from three decades ago was happy to lob a bitter word grenade into the camp.

However, the barb wasn’t directed at Mr Albanese; it was more directed towards his Foreign Minister Penny Wong and ASIO boss Mike Burgess.

Angered over Senator Wong’s speech on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Melbourne, during which the Foreign Minister warned of the region’s “the most confronting circumstances”, the former PM issued a fiery statement to accuse the government of alarmism over China.

“It doesn’t take much to encourage Penny Wong, sporting her ‘deeply concerned’ frown, to rattle the China can – a can she gave a good shake to yesterday,” Mr Keating said on Tuesday (5 March).

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It’s not the first time the Labor legend has taken a swipe at Senator Wong and her foreign policy approach, but this time, he also blasted ASIO’s director-general for talking about foreign entities recruiting a former Aussie politician.

“The resident conjurer, Mike Burgess, who runs ASIO, gave us a week’s worth of spy mysteries – only for us to find via a leak to the Herald and The Age that the mysterious state running the spying was, you guessed it, China”.

Describing it as a “kabuki show”, the former PM suggested too many people in power at the moment are anti-Beijing and should be sacked, including Mr Burgess.

“The anti-China Australian strategic policy establishment was feeling some slippage in its mindless pro-American stance and decided some new China rattling was overdue,” he said.

Laura Tingle and Paul Keating at the press club

Paul Keating isn’t shy about sharing his views on Australia’s China policy approach. Photo: Screenshot.

He added the director-general of the Office of National Intelligence, Andrew Shearer, and the now former Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo to the list (along with Mr Burgess) of people Mr Albanese should have sacked as soon as he took office in 2022.

“These people display utter contempt for the so-called stabilisation process that the Prime Minister had decided upon and has progressed with China, and will do anything to destabilise any meaningful rapprochement”, Mr Keating said.

“Burgess runs the primary goon show while Shearer does all in his power to encourage Australia into becoming the 51st state of the United States.”

During the ASEAN gathering, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim bought into the wider debate, saying if Australia and the US “have problems with China, they should not impose them upon us”.

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Mr Keating seized on those words, praising the Malaysian PM and saying Anwar had “dropped a huge rock into Wong’s pond by telling Australia not to piggyback Australia’s problems with China onto ASEAN”.

The former Labor leader said Australia’s present policy direction was at odds with the ASEAN’s strategic interest.

However, Senator Wong hit back, saying on Wednesday that Mr Keating’s view of the world was not necessarily shared by the current federal government, which, she said, was focused on Australia’s national interest.

“Mr Keating is entitled to his view, but the government is focused on how we work with countries in the region to encourage peace, stability, and prosperity and ensure economic and national security,” the Foreign Minister said.

“It was a new position to be lectured on whether or not I understood the country of my birth in Malaysia, but he is entitled to his opinion.”

Original Article published by Chris Johnson on Riotact.

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