Anthony Albanese has accused the Prime Minister of playing a dangerous political game amid escalating tensions with China, warning the wrong strategic move could have “profound security and economic implications”.
The Opposition Leader said Scott Morrison’s government had recklessly stoked fears of war with the Asian superpower as a ploy to appease voters.
In an address to the peak mining body on Wednesday, Mr Albanese will warn of the economic consequences for the minerals sector of the Prime Minister’s failure to co-operate and trade with an increasingly aggressive China.
“Australian needs more strategy and less politics when it comes to managing our differences with China,” he will tell the Minerals Council of Australia.
“Recent comments from Peter Dutton and a senior official about the prospect of war might well inflame nationalistic sentiments and secure a grab in the six o’clock news.”
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But Mr Albanese stressed “foreign policy is not a game”.
“It’s not a photo op. It’s a serious business with profound security and economic implications,” he said.
His comments follow alarming declarations from the Home Affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo that he sensed the “beating drums of war” while former defence minister Christopher Pyne declared war with China was likely in the next five to 10 years.
The address to the mining leaders comes as Mr Albanese faces a revolt within his party to support the coal sector as a means to better connect with Australia’s working class.
Outcast MP Joel Fitzgibbon recently cited the Labor Party’s slump at the NSW by-election in the Upper Hunter as proof the opposition had lost support in key battleground seats whose residents relied on extractive industries.
“The Labor brand is in trouble, and if you’re not careful, it will go the way of the Kodak brand,” the federal member for Hunter said last week.
“Working people walked away from us some time ago and clearly haven’t come back, and they won’t come back until we clearly tell them that our main priority as a party is jobs and job security.
“In places like the Hunter Region, you can’t have jobs and job security if you are not clearly in support of the coal mining industry. It’s important to so many families and they’re suspicious of us.”
Mr Albanese will seek to assure the mining groups on Wednesday that Australia will continue to export commodities if Labor claims victory at the federal election.
He said he understood the significant jobs and economic value the sector played in regional communities but implored Australia’s industries to accept “change and opportunity” by embracing clean energy.
“As the world moves to a low-carbon future, demand for some resources will decline,” Mr Albanese said.
“But there will be strong demand for other resources, particularly those needed for growth sectors like electric vehicles and batteries.
“That means there is a very bright future for exports in areas like aluminium, lithium, copper, cobalt, nickel and rare earths.
“Embracing renewables will create tens of thousands of secure jobs – jobs you can raise a family on.
“We are well positioned. Our competitive advantage includes all our abundant resources combined with the skills and talents of our greatest resource – our people.”