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Defiant Scott Morrison insists Australia did nothing wrong by calling for a coronavirus inquiry which infuriated China - and says he will continue to act in the national interest as trade tensions escalate

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 27/05/2020 Charlie Moore, Political Reporter For Daily Mail Australia

a person standing in a room: The US is investigating if the virus originated in a laboratory (pictured) in Wuhan, China © Provided by Daily Mail The US is investigating if the virus originated in a laboratory (pictured) in Wuhan, China Scott Morrison has insisted Australia's calls for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus were not offensive.

China was infuriated by the government's demand for an independent probe and imposed a tax on barley and banned some Aussie beef in apparent revenge.

But the Prime Minister today insisted he did nothing wrong and said he did not target our largest trading partner.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese backed Mr Morrison's calls for an inquiry - but labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon has accused the Coalition of 'demonising' China. 

It comes as Chinese state media reported that Beijing could import more natural gas from the US and Qatar instead of Australia if tensions continue.  

In an interview with the Today Show on Wednesday, Mr Morrison said: 'Australia has only ever acted in our own national interest and we have only ever acted in a way that has not sought to be offensive in any way, shape or form.

'I would simply ask "what offensive steps has Australian taken in relation to this relationship?" and my answer is none. 

'We are being ourselves, we have always been consistent about what we say. We say it in private and we say it in public. 

'So it is an important relationship. We will continue to work that relationship honestly but on the sure ground of Australia's national interest and we will never resile from that.'

Host Karl Stefanovic then asked: 'They seem pretty offended if we haven't done anything?'

Mr Morrison replied: 'Well, it is for others to explain to me what the offence is.

'Australia has simply acted in accordance with our national interests. 

Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang are posing for a picture: Chinese state media has threatened Australian with new economic sanctions if it supports the US in an escalating trade war with Beijing. Pictured: Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang © Provided by Daily Mail Chinese state media has threatened Australian with new economic sanctions if it supports the US in an escalating trade war with Beijing. Pictured: Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang A vendor wearing a face mask works in her stall in a market in Wuhan, in China on May 21. The Australian government wants wildlife wet markets to be banned © Provided by Daily Mail A vendor wearing a face mask works in her stall in a market in Wuhan, in China on May 21. The Australian government wants wildlife wet markets to be banned

'We have acted as a good global citizen whether it comes to multilateral trading forums or indeed through the World Health Assembly.

'None of our actions have been targeted in any way with China. We have a partnership with them. We are living up with the partnership.' 

In April Beijing became infuriated by Australia's calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of the virus, believing that it was a 'malicious' attempt to blame and 'stigmatize' China.

Mr Morrison was the first world leader to demand a ban on wildlife wet markets, where the virus may have originated, and said inspectors should be able to enter a country suffering from a pandemic without the government's consent. 

a group of people standing next to a man wearing a suit and tie: President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump welcome Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife Jenny to an official dinner at the White House September 20, 2019 © Provided by Daily Mail President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump welcome Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife Jenny to an official dinner at the White House September 20, 2019

Earlier this month China slapped an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley and suspended imports from four Australian beef suppliers in apparent revenge.

About one third of Australia's total exports - including iron ore, gas, coal and food - go to China, bringing in around $135billion per year and providing thousands of jobs. 

Last week fears of further retaliation were raised when China relaxed checks on iron-ore imports in a move that could favour Australia's competitors. 

On Tuesday night the state-controlled Global Times newspaper reported that Australian natural gas could also be targeted.

Australia is China's biggest source of natural gas, providing  three times as much as second-placed Qatar in the first quarter of this year.

But one analyst told the newspaper: 'Australia's LNG market share in China is likely to fall in the coming years, ceding market share to the US and Qatar, should Canberra's tensions with China continue.'

a group of people standing in front of a store: Mr Morrison has called for a ban on wildlife wet markets. Pictured: Xihua Farmers' Market in Guangzhou © Provided by Daily Mail Mr Morrison has called for a ban on wildlife wet markets. Pictured: Xihua Farmers' Market in Guangzhou

The US said on Friday it would ban trade with 33 Chinese companies linked with spying or the Chinese military in a move that could signal the start of a 'new cold war', according to Chinese media.

The Global Times threatened Australian with more economic sanctions if it backed the US in the matter.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said America 'stands with Australia'.

Mr Morrison has repeatedly insisted the two countries are 'great mates' and their alliance is strong.


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