A senior private sector adviser to Scott Morrison has warned the Australian government to temper its public comments about China.
Andrew Liveris, who led the prime minister’s manufacturing task force and helped craft his gas policies, encouraged the government to keep its criticisms of China private to protect the economic relationship.
Mr Liveris said China was a really good listener, but had a culture where saving face mattered.
“You don’t want to embarrass cultures,” he told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.
“I think you have got to be very careful with how you say things and what you say.”
China has launched several trade strikes against Australia after Mr Morrison led calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of coronavirus.
Mr Liveris said Australia should stand up for its moral beliefs and standards.
And he acknowledged the importance of delivering messages to domestic audiences, versus the competing interests of different countries.
But he stressed the need to balance Australia’s diplomatic relationship with China alongside its trade ties.
“Especially with an economy so dependent on China we have to be very careful until we diversify,” he said.
“When we diversify, we’ll be fine.”
Mr Liveris warned against Australia being a “one-trick pony” by relying solely on selling commodities to China.
But he does believe China will remain a big consumer of Australian goods.
“We’ve got to keep developing that relationship for our own mercantile benefit and, frankly, for theirs.”
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia wanted a cooperative relationship with China.
But he noted some “unexpected administrative decisions” in relation to goods such as barley, meat and wine had “heightened the risk of doing business in China”.
“We want to continue to support those types of areas of economic growth that have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty across our region, have been great for humanity,” he told the ABC.
“Australian trade with China is absolutely beneficial to both our nations and we continue to welcome and encourage that.”