Victorian premier Dan Andrews bans the media from his trip to China
Dan Andrews will not allow any Australian media to follow him on his four-day trip to China, despite being the first Australian leader to visit since the coronavirus pandemic began in Wuhan.
The Victorian premier is scheduled to fly to Beijing on Monday night and is set to attend a number of meetings with senior Chinese officials to discuss education, trade, and cultural matters.
Before returning to Melbourne on Saturday morning, he will visit Beijing and the Jiangsu and Sichuan provinces.
The list of officials the premier will meet with has not been revealed, prompting criticism from The Australian’s media writer Nick Tabakoff and 3AW presenter Neil Mitchell.
‘It seems to be a case of Chairman Dan adopting the Chinese government culture of explaining as little as possible to the public.’
Mr Tabakoff referred to the famous snap of Dan Andrews talking on his mobile phone while standing in Tiananmen Square on a trip to Beijing in 2015.
‘Part of the problem from Andrews’ perspective might be the photographs that could be snapped by the traveling media on such a visit,’ he added.
Notable Daniel Andrews critic, 3AW’s Neil Mitchell, claimed the move not to allow the media was ‘certainly a bad look’ for the premier.
He then joked: ‘He’s involved in so many inquiries in Victoria, that it wouldn’t be surprising if he sought asylum there!’
Liberal MP Dan Tehan called on the premier to be more transparent about his itinerary in China.
‘I think he’s been to China more times than he’s visited Warrnambool.
‘I’m concerned that the only reports we’ll get out of it will be by state-run media in China and I’d really like to know the purpose of this visit,’ Mr Tehan told Sky News on Monday.
Daniel Andrews (pictured in Tiananmen Square in 2015) has not invited any Australian media on his trip to Beijing this week
However, Mr Andrews defended the decision not to engage the media after his plans were revealed on Sunday.
‘We’re having a series of meetings back to back, and I don’t think I’ve taken media on every trip I’ve ever done,’ he said.
‘There’ll be other trips this year to lots of different parts of the world, potentially. We still haven’t firmed that up. But you’ll be appropriately invited to those.’
‘We’ve made our choice. You can have a view on that. That’s entirely your job.
The Victorian Premier will attend a number of meetings with senior Chinese officials to discuss trade, education and cultural matters
Chinese President Xi Jinping is not expected to be on the itinerary for Mr Andrews’ visit
Mr Andrews has been accused of being too close to China’s dictatorial government after joining Beijing’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative.
The Morrison Government used newly created powers to tear up the agreement in April 2021 on national interest grounds.
The Belt and Road broadly aims to foster infrastructure projects around the region, and in Victoria’s case ‘increase the participation of Chinese infrastructure companies in Victoria’s infrastructure construction programme’.
However, it is criticized as a soft power grab by China to increase its influence on developing countries, and trap them in debts that force them to do Beijing’s bidding.
Mr Andrews said China was Victoria’s largest and most significant trading partner and it was important to strengthen that relationship even further.
‘This is not the first trip that I’ve made to China and it won’t be the last,’ he told reporters on Sunday.
‘We think that’s really important for Victorian jobs and exports.’
Mr Andrews said he spoke to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who was very positive about the trip.
The Victorian premier denied the relationship between Canberra and Beijing was strained after the $368 billion AUKUS submarine deal.
‘I’m not here to be a commentator on the China-Australia relationship… nor am I here to talk about defense or strategic issues or foreign policy issues,’ he said.
‘My job, the job I have always done, is to make sure that more Victorian companies can get access to the biggest market in the world.’
This will be the premier’s seventh visit to China since the Labor government came to office, with previous trips in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and two in 2019.