WA Premier Mark McGowan has continued his criticism of the Morrison government over its deteriorating relationship with China, saying Australia needs to put more effort into conciliation.
Earlier this week, Mr McGowan gave an ominous warning to the commonwealth about its growing trade tensions with China amid reports from local media that more Australian products were expected to be barred.
On Friday, the Premier said the federal government needed to work constructively with China.
“We can have a great alliance with the United States, and a great friendship and trading relationship with China,” he told reporters.
“There is no inconsistency in the two things and I just urge the commonwealth to put additional effort into that relationship.”
The Premier reiterated diplomatic issues “should be dealt with using diplomacy”.
“I think what’s changed is diplomatic issues are not dealt with diplomatically, they’re dealt with in press conferences,” he said.
“If there are problems, which of course there are between all countries, we should deal with them behind closed doors, in meetings with proper conversations, rather than in press conferences.
“That would be my advice to everyone.”
Mr McGowan said he was “very concerned for the whole country” as tensions escalated.
“Since 1972, we’ve engaged with China … the last few years have been difficult … and that’s having severe consequences, it appears,” he said.
Among the people suffering the most, the Premier said, were those working in small businesses, tourism and mining.
“I know in some quarters it might be popular … to attack China because they do have a different system of government, a different way of doing things to us, but you’ve always got to think what the consequence might be,” he said.
“The consequence for potentially hundreds of thousands of Australians could be the loss of their job.
“That’s why I’m very, very keen that we continue to have the good relationship that was developed and continued by Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, John Howard and beyond.”
The Premier also noted China consumed half of the world’s iron ore.
“Therefore, finding other markets for iron ore is difficult,” he said.
“It’s our biggest export commodity, so obviously we need to continue to have a good relationship with our customers.”
Mr McGowan said he had communicated with the Prime Minister and major businesses over the issue.
“Obviously, anything I can do to assist, I stand ready to do,” he said.
Originally published as Australia must ‘put effort’ into China