Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has been criticized for refusing to provide his speech notes from a covert Chinese meeting that Australian journalists were prohibited from.
The media was refused admission to Victoria’s Premier’s remarks at the Post Pandemic China-Australia Economic Cooperation Forum.
The Herald Sun was denied entry to the forum. The only media authorized were Chinese.
Event signage forbade photography and filming.
Premier Andrews said that he did not use the notes during his address, making their publication superfluous.
“No notes. I talked freely. To my staff’s dismay, I don’t always refer to them,” he remarked.
“I didn’t use them, so why release them?”
He claimed ignorance of the media prohibition and blamed event organizers for attendance concerns.
“I didn’t organize it. The event was uninvited. “I didn’t stop anyone from going,” he claimed.
“If you have a challenge or a problem or issues related to the event, then the event organisers would be the logical place to go… about who was invited in and who wasn’t.”
Andrews claimed he was boosting connections with his state’s “biggest customer”.
He called it significant.
I stressed that the China-Victoria cooperation is vital to jobs, exports, international education, food and wine, and every area.
We trade with them most. If your greatest consumer is unhappy, your firm is in trouble.”
Opposition Leader John Pesutto said political leaders should not speak in private since they represent the people.
This is not IBAC, where he may speak anonymously. “He’s speaking for Victorians,” he remarked.
“No political leader—Daniel Andrews or myself—should expect to give speeches in private.
“Victoria operates differently.”
The China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy (CIIDS), one of the forum’s sponsors, was accused by Victorian Liberal MP James Paterson of being a front for China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS), the country’s main intelligence agency.
Senator Paterson called the Premier’s statement without media access unusual and irresponsible. He wondered why Premier Andrews was so secretive.
Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp gave her full statement and stressed the forum’s relevance for future business and China relations.
Mayor Capp noted Melbourne’s strategic cooperation with Chinese cities and sister-city relationship with Tianjin.
These linkages have improved education, culture, commerce, trade, and people-to-people exchange. The reopening of China might bring investment, employment, and commerce to Melbourne, Mayor Capp said.
“Needless to say, the City of Melbourne values our Chinese community who helped build and continue to work with us to shape this city in many wonderful ways,” Ms. Capp added.
“I thank the China Chamber of Commerce Australia for supporting Chinese enterprises in Australia, especially in Melbourne.”