Pacific News Minute: Australia-China Extradition Treaty Collapses in Canberra

Mar 29, 2017

Australian Parliament building in Canberra
Credit Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump isn’t the only world leader forced to cancel a vote on an important bill. Last week, in Washington, it was Health Care. This week in Canberra, an extradition treaty with China. We have details from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

On Sunday, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang left Australia after a well-received five day visit with every reason to expect a long-awaited diplomatic plum. Ten years after it was first signed, Australia was about to ratify an extradition treaty and become the first English speaking democracy to embrace China’s much criticized criminal justice system.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hoped for a quiet vote yesterday, but opposition flared on both left and right and an embarrassed Turnbull had to concede that he just didn’t have the votes.

In the end, the treaty sank over the prospect of sending suspects to face trial in China. The detention of a prominent Chinese born professor on his way home to Australia this past weekend didn’t help.

500,000 of Australia’s 24 million residents were born in China, and there’s concern about China’s control over Chinese language media and its efforts to influence Australian politics.

But, just a couple of weeks ago, a respected elder statesman, Stephen Fitzgerald, delivered an important speech, where he argued that the election of Donald Trump provided a moment of opportunity for Australia to realign towards Beijing. “We are living in a Chinese world,” he said.

Following the withdrawal of the Extradition treaty, Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at Australian National University told the New York Times, “What’s clear now, is that even Donald Trump is not enough to encourage Australia into a full strategic embrace of China.”