FULL RE­PORT

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - GREG BROWN BEN PACKHAM

Bill Shorten and op­po­si­tion de­fence spokesman Richard Mar­les — fed­eral La­bor’s most se­nior Vic­to­rian MP — say the An­drews govern­ment should re­lease de­tails of its agree­ment to join Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s sig­na­ture Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

The Op­po­si­tion Leader said agree­ments be­tween gov­ern­ments and for­eign na­tions should be made pub­lic “over time”, while Mr Mar­les said the agree­ment should be re­leased “in due course”.

Both stopped short of call­ing for Vic­to­rian Pre­mier Daniel An­drews to re­lease de­tails of his govern­ment’s deal with Bei­jing be­fore the Novem­ber 24 elec­tion, as de­manded by state Op­po­si­tion Leader Matthew Guy.

Mr An­drews de­clared he was “very proud” of one of his staffers, Marty Mei, who has been linked to China’s United Front or­gan­i­sa­tion, brand­ing sug­ges­tions of un­due in­flu­ence on his govern­ment by Bei­jing as “non­sense”.

The Aus­tralian re­ported Mr Mei was named a “spe­cial con­sul­tant” to the Shen­zhen As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia, which is part of a net­work of or­gan­i­sa­tions guided by the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party’s United Front Work Depart­ment.

Mr An­drews, who again re­fused to re­lease his govern­ment’s BRI agree­ment with China, said Mr Mei was “an out­stand­ing Vic­to­rian” who just hap­pened to be of Chi­nese ori­gin.

“I’m very proud of him. He does a lot of hard work, and the sug­ges­tions that were made in the ar­ti­cle are a joke,” the Pre­mier said.

Asked whether un­due in­flu­ence had been placed on his govern­ment, Mr An­drews said: “The an­swer is no — that’s com­plete non­sense.”

Mr Guy also faced ques­tions yes­ter­day over one of his staffers, Kelvin Ho.

Mr Ho and for­mer Lib­eral at­tor­ney-gen­eral Robert Clark at­tended the same Novem­ber 2016 event as Mr Mei, which was opened by a se­nior Com­mu­nist Party of­fi­cial, Ma Yongzhi, who is vice-min­is­ter of the United Work Front Depart­ment of Shen­zhen.

Asked what Mr Ho’s role was in his of­fice, Mr Guy said: “Kelvin I think has done some vol­un­tary work and some paid work in the past for me. That’s about it.

“I think he does do some work for us, for the Lib­eral Party.”

As state and fed­eral La­bor MPs ex­pressed alarm over Mr An­drews’s de­ci­sion to join the BRI, Mr Shorten de­clined to say whether Vic­to­ria had over­stepped the mark in sign­ing the agree­ment.

“States en­gage with trade re­la­tion­ships with other coun­tries, they send trade del­e­ga­tions, I’m not run­ning for pre­mier,” Mr Shorten said.

How­ever, he sug­gested Mr An­drews should make the MOU pub­lic at some point in the fu­ture.

“I think over time agree­ments that gov­ern­ments en­ter into, MOUs, should be avail­able to the pub­lic,” he said.

Mr Mar­les said fed­eral La­bor would not join the BRI and the pro­gram should be ap­proached with a “high de­gree of cau­tion”.

“Our ap­proach has been to not sign an agree­ment but to do it on a case-by-case ba­sis,” Mr Mar­les told Sky News.

He said he did not know what Vic­to­ria had signed up for but lashed the “hypocrisy” of the fed­eral govern­ment for sign­ing MOUs with China that had also been kept se­cret.

“I think it would be bet­ter in due course that these doc­u­ments were made pub­lic,” Mr Mar­les said.

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