Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been accused of lacking transparency about the details of his upcoming “unusual” trip to China this week.
The four-day visit will reportedly involve the Premier meeting with senior officials from the Ministry of Education and Beijing government.
Premier Dan Andrews has come under fire for his lack of transparency about his latest China visit. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Nicki Connolly
Mr Andrews is expected to discuss trade and cultural ties, and the return of Chinese students to Victoria after the lifting of border closures initially brought in during the pandemic.
However, he has been criticised for staying tight-lipped on the details of the trip – specifically, who he will be meeting and when.
And, in a shift from usual diplomatic practice, he will not be joined by journalists or by his Education Minister Natalie Hutchins or Trade Minister Tim Pallas.
Heidi Murphy, a reporter for 9 News, told 3AW on Monday morning this was a “little unusual” for those ministers to be left out of the visit which, reportedly, involves “lots of important meetings, but none of them terribly picture friendly”.
“It’s interesting he’s decided not to take the Education Minister or the Trade Minister with him,” she said.
“You’d think those couple of individuals with responsibilities for those portfolios – if that’s the aim – that’s the thrust of the mission, that they’d be going as well.”
Education Minister Natalie Hutchins will not be going to China. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Luis AscuiNeither will Victorian Trade Minister Tim Pallas. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Geraghty
Murphy also said, while this was not Mr Andrews’ first trip to China, it is also “fairly regular” practice for a political figure to take journalists along to “make the trip worthwhile, to sell the message back home”.
But, she said, this trip “came completely out of the blue” when it was announced on Sunday.
Mr Andrews has visited China on seven occasions – once in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and twice in 2019 – and on his last, signed a framework agreement with China’s controversial Belt and Road initiative.
That initiative was dissolved by the Morrison government under new laws that allowed the Commonwealth to cancel deals between states and foreign powers.
This will be Mr Andrews’ first trip since the deal was torn up, but Murphy said the Premier confirmed he will not address that initiative on this trip.
This visit will also be the first by any Australian politician since the AUKUS defence deal was signed – which was widely panned by Beijing officials.
Daniel Andrews has visited China on seven occasions since becoming Victorian Premier. Picture: Supplied
The Victorian Liberal opposition has also come out swinging against the visit, with Caulfield MP David Southwick calling for greater transparency from Mr Andrews.
“I think all Victorians would want to know who Daniel Andrews is meeting. What’s the intention of the trip? And what’s the benefit to Victorians?” he said, 9 News reports.
Ross Stevenson and Russel Howcroft from 3AW echoed the call for transparency, asking whether the public should be entitled to see the Premier’s diary to know who he is visiting.
“Well, I would have thought so, yes,” Murphy replied.
“We don’t know who he’s meeting. We hope to find out who he does meet. Normally you have photographs of these things … We don’t know who they are.
“There are obviously calls for much greater transparency around it.”
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On Sunday, Mr Andrews batted away criticism about the trip’s short notice, saying they “don’t have plans that are finalised a week ago or a month ago”.
“You do the planning and then you make an announcement when it is appropriate to do so,” he said.
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