Foreign affairs officials within the Morrison Government say they are not surprised by the Prime Minister’s confused statements on Australia’s official policy on China’s relationship to Taiwan.
In a radio interview last week following news reports of rising tensions and the possibility of military confrontation between China and Taiwan, Scott Morrison said: “We have always understood the one system, two countries arrangement, and we will continue to follow our policies there … one country, two systems, I should say.”
Mr Morrison did not seem to be aware that the “one country two systems” terminology referred to China’s approach to Hong Kong since the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997.
Senior officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) who did not wish to be identified told The Bug that the remarks – in addition to revealing a woeful level of understanding of the sensitive diplomatic issue – ran the risk of being seized on by China to justify its claim over Taiwan, and possibly emboldening the Asian superpower to launch a war and take over the island nation off its coast.
“Unfortunately, ever since he took over as PM in 2018 we have long expected Mr Morrison to slip up in public comments on China and Taiwan,” one official said.
“As a new PM it was up to those of us in DFAT with considerable expertise in the China/Taiwan issue to give him thorough briefings to bring him up to speed on this major diplomatic issue in case he was quizzed about it, like he was last week.
“But when we started to run him through the ‘one country two systems ’ concept Mr Morrison became restless.
“He soon held up his hand. Knowing a bit about him, we thought he was about to pray, but the gesture was to silence us.
“He told us in no uncertain terms that the briefing was redundant because as a marketing genius he fully understood the idea, likening it to a ‘two for one’ or a ‘buy one get one free’ retail offer.
“Despite our best efforts, the PM persisted with that analogy, even loudly imitating what we think was meant to be a market stallholder spruiking ‘two-for-one’ offers, but in a vaudeville-like Chinese accent.
“Once the PM started to reminisce about the marketing genius he brought to Tourism Australia during his time as CEO to attract Chinese tourists to holiday here we began to think it might be best if we postponed the briefing and tried again at a later date.
“When he began to repeat the ‘Where the blood hell are you?’ slogan, but as ‘Where da bruddy herr are roo?’ we made the decision to make our excuses to leave and return to our offices,” the official said.