Peter Dutton defends war rhetoric over China as his duty to Australia

Defence Minister Peter Dutton accused Labor of being soft on national security and Chinese aggression in question time on Tuesday. Picture: Keegan Carroll
Defence Minister Peter Dutton accused Labor of being soft on national security and Chinese aggression in question time on Tuesday. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has defended ramping up his rhetoric against China in a rare blitz of media appearances after being accused of warmongering for votes.

He wanted peace to prevail in the region, he said, but other countries were building up their military presence in the region.

"You do worry about miscalculation, and I'm just not going to be dishonest about the relationship [with China]. I'm not going to be dishonest about what I see what I read in the intelligence that's presented to me," Mr Dutton told journalists in Canberra on Tuesday.

"Australia needs to provide a deterrence against actions, including by the Communist Party, because the Communist Party has been very clear about their intent in relation to to Taiwan."

China was a very different country now under President Xi Jinping than it was 10 years ago, and saying that was going to attract criticism, he said.

"The threats of violence in Taiwan, in Hong Kong, what we're seeing now potentially with people who have reported to go missing ... we shouldn't shy away from it or pretend that it's not reality," he said.

"There's a great need for people to be realistic about the situation."

The Defence Minister repeated comparison he has made before that China's actions mirrored building aggression in the 1930s.

The senior minister, who is a strong potential rival to Prime Minister Scott Morrison's leadership within the party, accused Labor of being weak on national security and folding to China following a major speech by Labor's Penny Wong on Tuesday.

"I noticed the acting Chinese ambassador has been attacking Australian values and Senator Wong doesn't stand up for those values, instead, she folds in a fit of weakness," he told question time.

Former prime minister Paul Keating could have written the senator's speech, he said.

"If you want to look at what they would do in government, look at what they did in opposition. This guy was the architect, along with Kevin Rudd, of the unsuccessful boat policy that resulted in people dying and resulted in children going into detention.

"When it comes to the defence of our country, I can assure this weak leader of the opposition, you don't deter an adversary and you don't maintain peace in our region from a position of weakness. That is what he is advocating."

He also accused Labor's Anthony Albanese of abandoning his earlier support for the trilateral AUKUS pact by not condemning the recent comments from Chinese President Xi Jingping and the country's foreign affairs officials about Australia.

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Senator Wong in her speech on Tuesday said Mr Dutton was out of step with the United States for saying it was inconceivable Australia would not send troops to support an America war to defend Taiwan from China.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has labelled Mr Dutton's "sensational and astonishing statements on China-related issues" as a cold war mentality.

"He wouldn't scruple to hijack Australia onto the chariot in confrontation with China," he said at a press conference in China.

President Xi recently told Pacific leaders that China firmly opposes hegemonism and power politics that the West was engaging in, and sought friendly coexistence with neighbouring countries.

"China will never seek hegemony, still less bully smaller countries. China supports Asean's efforts to build a nuclear weapon-free zone, and is prepared to sign the Protocol to the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone as early as possible."

With AAP

This story 'Miscalculation' in Indo-Pacific military build-up is a worry, Dutton admits first appeared on The Canberra Times.