Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hit back at his predecessor’s claims Australia’s national foreign policy had ‘lost its way’.
Scott Morrison has hit back at former prime minister Paul Keating’s assertion that China isn’t a threat to Australia, saying he is “out of line”.
Mr Keating told the National Press Club on Wednesday that Australia should be ashamed at how it failed to successfully establish its position in the region, and that the nation’s foreign policy had lost its way.
“China is simply too big and too central to be ostracised,” Mr Keating said.
“We are still trying to find our security from Asia rather than in Asia.”
Hitting back on Thursday morning, Mr Morrison said Mr Keating couldn’t “see things clearly”.
“As people know, we’ve taken a very strong position here in the Indo-Pacific and we’ve taken a very strong stance standing up for Australia’s interests, and we’ve worked closely with our allies and our partners right across the region, not just the United States but (also) Japan and India, and the many nations of ASEAN who we work closely with to make sure that we aren’t pushed around in this part of the world” Mr Morrison said.
“Now, the views that Paul Keating has expressed is in line with many I think in the Labor Party and that’s why I said … How we secure Australia’s interests in our part of the world, you have got to be strong.
“You’ve got to be able to see things clearly. We are.
“That’s why we’ve invested more than our nation has invested in our defence at any time since the Second World War.
“I think Australians get it. We want to have a positive relationship with countries like China and trade with them, but at the same time, we’re not going to get pushed around.”
Mr Keating on Wednesday said Australia should keep its nose out of China’s ongoing dispute with Taiwan, describing his country as a “stakeholder in a US-run system” while shooting down the idea of getting involved in a conflict that goes against Australia’s national security goals.
“Taiwan is not a vital Australian interest. We have no alliance with Taipei, none,” he said.
“China doesn’t want American (and Australian) naval forces influencing. It wants access out of its coast into the deeper waters of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific.
“That’s what it’s about fundamentally.”
During his appearance, Mr Keating also took aim at the Australian Government’s handling of the international diplomatic spat caused by the scrapping of a French submarine deal.
Mr Keating said the eight proposed nuclear submarines would be like “throwing a handful of toothpicks at the mountain” when they “arrive in 20 years”.
Mr Morrison said Mr Keating’s throwaway lines were another example of why Labor couldn’t be trusted “when it comes to national security issues”.
“You need someone who actually is prepared to stand up for what Australia wants,” he said.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese would not be drawn on whether he agreed with Mr Keating, dodging questions on the Today Show.
“China has changed its stance, and Australia has too,” he said.
“We will always stand up for Australian values.
“Paul Keating always has strong things to say and it’s always important to listen to what he has to say … He is wise counsel.”