Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon has urged the government to soothe relations with China, lashing the coalition for demonising Australia’s biggest trading partner.
A deepening diplomatic row has reached fever pitch with Beijing furious about Canberra’s push for a global coronavirus inquiry.
Mr Fitzgibbon ramped up his attacks on the government, claiming it had mismanaged the relationship with the communist superpower over many years.
“We’ve been demonising the Chinese and their system of governance,” the opposition’s agriculture spokesman told Sky News on Thursday.
Farmers have suffered a major blow, with China slapping an 80 per cent tariff on barley imports and blocking red meat from four Australian abattoirs.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the former Turnbull government’s changes to foreign investment thresholds discriminated against Chinese investors.
He also criticised the foreign influence register for deliberately targeting China for domestic political gain.
“Now we have our most recent prime minister basically saying things like we should send weapons-style supervisors into China against their will,” he said.
“I have no idea how he thought he was going to achieve that.”
The senior Labor MP said farmers were concerned other commodities could be targeted.
“It’s our largest trading partner and we need to normalise this relationship.”
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said Australia was right to stand up to China.
“The values of the communist regime are not compatible with ours so you will have tensions from time to time,” he told 2GB radio.
“We’ll manage those, but we aren’t going to compromise on our values and our beliefs.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has thrown his support behind Australia amid increasingly tough talk from President Donald Trump.
“The Chinese Communist Party chose to threaten Australia with economic retribution for the simple act of asking for an independent inquiry into the origins of the virus. It’s not right,” Mr Pompeo told reporters in Washington.
Bloomberg has reported Chinese officials were considering stricter checks on some Australian seafood, oats and fruit and dairy.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham challenged China to respond to the report it is drawing up a hit list of Australian exports.
“This is an unsourced claim for Chinese authorities to respond to,” he said.
The World Health Assembly has adopted a resolution to establish an independent coronavirus inquiry with the support of 137 nations.