The pandemic is dragging Australia’s relations with China to a new low amid reports two of its scientists who studied live bats in Australia were being monitored by intelligence services.
China has threatened to stop importing wine and beef from Australia if the Morrison government continues to push for an inquiry into the origin of the global coronavirus outbreak.
Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye said that Canberra’s call for a global COVID-19 review could trigger a Chinese consumer boycott of Australian services and products.
“It’s up to the people to decide. Maybe the ordinary people will say, ‘why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?” he said.
Senator Payne rejected “any suggestion that economic coercion is an appropriate response to a call for such an assessment, when what is needed is global co-operation”.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the boycott would be inappropriate.
“Australia’s position is very clear that we believe it is entirely reasonable … for there to be a genuine inquiry and investigation into the cause of the loss of life of hundreds of thousands of people around the world,” he told the ABC.
“We won’t be changing our public policy position, on the face of such a serious public health matter, in the face of any threats of coercion from any other nation.”
Labor has supported the federal government’s stance.
Frontbencher Bill Shorten told Today the opposition supported calls for a global COVID 19 inquiry.
“I think China needs to just step back a bit. All the people want to know is how did it happen,” he said.
“This virus has changed Australia forever and it’s had dreadful health consequences.”
China accounts for a quarter of all Australian exports, worth $153 billion in 2018-19.
Now it has been reported by News Corp that two Chinese scientists who studied live bats in Australia were monitored by Western security services as part of their investigations into the cause of the coronavirus pandemic.
The pair, both reportedly working at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, were studying the link between bats and the coronavirus. Part of their work reportedly involved research at a Geelong laboratory.
– Reported with AAP
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