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Security expert warns China is ‘certainly emerging as a threat’ to Australian interests

Premier Daniel Andrews has today responded to criticism that he signed up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative with the Chinese government without consulting the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

It comes after The Age reported that top Australian foreign policymakers were shocked when Mr Andrews signed the framework agreement last October.

But the Premier says the document he signed last year was an extension of an earlier document he had shown to DFAT.

“The first agreement was sent to DFAT in draft form, the second agreement is simply an extension of the first agreement,” he said at a press conference today.

Mr Andrews warned a turn away from China “will cost jobs”.

But former Intelligence Analyst, David Wright-Neville, says there’s more to consider than just the economy.

“At one level, yes, this is about economics, it’s about jobs, it’s about investment, it’s about tourism, all of these things are important to Victorians. But it’s not just economic, it’s economic with political and security consequences,” he told Neil Mitchell.

“It’s those consequences that most concern the security agencies and the foreign policy establishment, because China has a very long track record of using investment … to cultivate political favours or exert political influence.”

Dr Wright-Neville said China doesn’t pose a short-term threat to Australian interests, but in the medium-term, it’s a different story.

“China is certainly emerging as a threat to Australia’s interests, particularly our interests in protecting open seas lines, open lines of trade … and allowing countries to pursue their own goals without external interference,” he said.

“Look at China’s behavior in the South China Sea over the last several years.”

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