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'Out of line': Australia's Morrison schools former PM for pro-China comments

Keating’s China stance dismissed by both of Australia’s major parties

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says his predecessor Paul Keating was “out of line” in making pro-China comments at a National Press Club on Wednesday (Nov. 10).

Keating took aim at the Morrison government’s foreign policy, saying Australia had lost its way and had failed to establish its position in the region, according to a report by The Australian.

“China is simply too big and too central to be ostracized,” Keating said.

“Taiwan is not a vital Australian interest. We have no alliance with Taipei, none,” he went on.

Keating suggested China be given a free pass for its blatant bellicosity in the South China Sea, comparing the communist power to an aggressive teenage boy. China is “in the adolescent phase of their diplomacy” and has “testosterone running everywhere,” he said, according to a report from The Guardian.

China’s size was also offered as an excuse — “big powers are rude,” he muttered at one point.

Morrison has hit back, saying Keating cannot see things clearly.

“You've got to be strong. You've got to be able to stand up for it (Australia’s interests),” Morrison said.

“We’ve taken a very strong position here in the Indo-Pacific and we’ve worked closely with our allies and our partners right across the region,” he said, naming the U.S, Japan, and India among other Southeast Asian nations.

“I think Australians get it,” Morrison added.

Meanwhile, Australia’s defense chief Peter Dutton took to Twitter, where he called the former prime minister “Grand Appeaser Comrade Keating.” Dutton recently said Australia will back up any U.S. effort to defend Taiwan if China attacks.

Keating has a long record of making overtly pro-China statements that have been calmly dismissed out of hand even by leaders of his own party.

In 2019 Keating called Australia's spy chiefs "nutters" and said they should lose their jobs, so Canberra can improve ties with Beijing, which he called a “great state.” Bill Shorten, the leader of the Labor Party at the time, made it clear he did not share Keating's views and would continue to work closely with Australia’s intelligence services, per an ABC report.

Responding to the latest Keating outburst, current Labor leader Anthony Albanese said it was China, not Australia, that had changed the nature of the bilateral relationship, per The Guardian.

“China is the nation that‘s changed in terms of their attitude towards Australian imports, for example, and Australian businesses are suffering,” he said.

He also said he will stick up for Australia’s values, in language that seemed to echo Morrison’s rhetoric on China.