Friday, June 29, 2012

Swan in China. With Rudd, Peacock and Downer?

If they say yes

Treasurer Wayne Swan has invited an unlikely series of travelling companions on his trip to Beijing next month, among them Andrew Peacock, Alexander Downer and Kevin Rudd.

What they have in common is serving as Australian foreign minister during the 40 years Australia has had an embassy in Beijing.

Until December 1972 Australia refused to recognise the communist Chinese government headquartered in Beijing, preferring to recognise instead the non-communist government in exile in Taiwan.

When Labor opposition leader Gough Whitlam flew to Beijing in 1971 to meet with Chinese leaders Australia’s prime minister William McMahon accused him of being soft on Communism. But a year later US President Richard Nixon himself flew to Beijing, Gough Whitlam became Australia’s first Labor prime minister in a generation and both nations recognised what has since become Australia’s most important trading partner.

To celebrate 40 years of Australian presence in Beijing Mr Swan has quietly asked each of the surviving former ministers who served foreign minister during that time to join him on the trip...

The complete list is Andrew Peacock, Tony Street, Bill Hayden, Gareth Evans, Alexander Downer and Kevin Rudd.

In parliament yesterday Mr Swan celebrated the $4 billion listing on the Australian stock exchange of the Chinese-owned coal miner Yancoal. He said the record investment in Australia’s resource industries was a vote of confidence in Australia’s future. The coal industry was set to expand, notwithstanding talk from the leader of the opposition about how next week’s carbon tax would kill it stone dead.

Mr Swan leaves for Hong Kong and Beijing with a delegation of business leaders on July 10.

In today's Age

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