Eric Abetz demands rethink of Port of Newcastle after revelations over Chinese ownership

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A veteran senator has demanded an overhaul of China’s stake in a NSW port.

Tensions between Beijing and Canberra over Chinese ownership were heightened after the federal government angered Beijing in April by axing the controversial Belt and Road Initiative, struck between Victoria and Beijing.

And after revelations a Chinese state-owned enterprise holds a 50 per cent stake of the Port of Newcastle, Liberal Senator Eric Abetz demanded a rethink of the arrangement.

“One of the beneficiaries is a Communist Party state enterprise from China,” he told 2GB Radio on Thursday.

“That does not augur well at all for our coal jobs, our coal exporters, or the jobs and wealth that’s created.

“This does need to be reconsidered, reconsidered quickly in a manner to ensure that Australia’s this national interests are served.”

Senator Abetz has been an outspoken critic of China, in November accusing the international community of turning a “blind eye” to its rise, which he compared to that of Nazi Germany.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told News Corp the government would legislate to protect coal workers if China sought to interfere with shipments to the Port of Newcastle.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese on Wednesday told the nation’s peak mining body the government’s handling of the China relationship was damaging the minerals sector.

“Australian needs more strategy and less politics when it comes to managing our differences with China,” he will tell the Minerals Council of Australia.

“Recent comments from Peter Dutton and a senior official about the prospect of war might well inflame nationalistic sentiments and secure a grab in the six o’clock news.”

In a move that could signal a diplomatic rethink, President Xi Jinping on Monday urged top political leaders to “get a grip on tone” and create a more “loveable” image of China on the world stage.

“(We must be) be open and confident but also modest and humble … (and) expand the circle of friends with those who understand and are friendly to China, ” he said.

But after an editorial in Beijing’s mouthpiece the Global Times warned of a “intense showdown” with the US, possibly involving nuclear weapons, Mr Abetz accused Beijing of “speaking out of both sides of its mouth”.

He warned Australia not to “succumb to (a) charm” offensive from China and said a genuine thaw in the relationship would be Beijing lifting tariffs on Australian products.

“We have to be on full alert. If they do change their attitude, then that would be more than welcomed and I think everybody would love it,” he said.

“But we’ve got to make sure that that change in attitude is not just words, that it’s genuine (and) it’s sincere.”


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