Opposition Leader Bill Shorten did not support Shadow Defence Minister Stephen Conroy’s call on the Turnbull government to initiate a freedom of navigation exercise in the South China Sea, but he defended him.
According to The Australian on Thursday, Conroy criticised the Turnbull government on its delayed take on navigation exercise in territorial waters of South China Sea, Beijing. He blamed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for being “long on rhetoric and short on substance” as far as China’s territorial navigation exercise in the China Sea is concerned [Yahoo News].
“Australia should be prepared to act to support the international system in the South China Sea, and we should not be shy about our actions and intentions in doing so,” he penned in the newspaper. Shorten seemed to be defending Conroy, saying that his intention was not to blame the government for anything but to state long-held bipartisan support shown for freedom of navigation mission on the seas.
Shorten told reporters in Darwin that it would have been better if the nations in the region could sit, talk and then work through the issues at international meets. He added that his party and the coalition were set to work for the peaceful development of the rise of Asia and China.
Meanwhile, Turnbull has ended his Washington tour with a stopover in Hawaii en route to Australia. The prime minister met the US Pacific Command Head Admiral Harry Harris and discussed about the maritime conflicts between Asian nations to Australia’s north.
According to the Australian Financial Review, Turnbull’s meeting with US President Barack Obama and Pentagon officials indicated that he did not receive any request for Australia to participate in freedom of navigation exercises to be undertaken in future. The Turnbull government, however, is planning to discuss the issue publicly against China’s aggressive reclamation efforts. The nation’s government believes that confronting Beijing directly through freedom of navigation exercise was not a good option as China is the largest trading partner of Australia.