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Australia’s new law escalates tensions between China, Australia



A new law passed by Australia’s parliament scrapping agreements signed between the country and foreign nations has escalated diplomatic tensions between Australia and China, reports say.

Australia’s parliament had on Tuesday voted to grant Canberra new powers to tear up agreements signed with foreign countries.

China had earlier warned that the legislation was among a raft of grievances responsible for “poisoning” bilateral ties.

Under the new law, Australia’s foreign minister will be able to scrap agreements between other nations and sub-national bodies, such as state and territory governments, local councils, and universities, South China Morning Post reports.

The minister’s decision will be based on “where he or she believes that the agreements undermine foreign policy,” the report says.

Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, said the legislation would ensure agreements were consistent with Australia’s foreign policy in an “increasingly globalised world”.

The newly-passed legislation is likely to further escalate tensions between Australia and China after the latter included it on a list of 14 grievances, which it said were responsible for “poisoning” ties.

The list, released last month through the Chinese embassy in Canberra, also included Canberra’s 2018 ban on Huawei’s involvement in 5G and ‘antagonistic’ media reports on China, the South China Morning Post said.

“It certainly is not going to help alleviate the current (fight) between the two governments but as Beijing has the right to decide the scope of China’s engagement with foreign countries, so does Canberra,” said Nathan Attrill, a researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

The Institute is part-funded by the Australian, U.S., and British governments.

Sino-Australian relations have been in a downward spiral since April, when Canberra infuriated Beijing by proposing an independent international inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Beijing has in recent months slapped several restrictions amounting to billions of dollars of Australian exports, including beef, barley, and wine, citing dumping and other trade violations that analysts widely view as pretexts to inflict economic retaliation.

Amid deteriorating relations between the two countries, earlier this month, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, shared a doctored image on his Twitter handle in which a special forces soldier was seen slitting a knife on the throat of an Afghan child whose head was wrapped in an Australian flag.

Despite Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, slamming the Chinese government for the “outrageous and disgusting slur” and seeking an apology, China refused to apologise and said Canberra should be ashamed rather than demanding an apology.

China also seems to be infuriated by Australia’s participation in the Malabar naval exercise earlier this month.

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