Federal committee to grill Andrews on 'why he pursued the Belt and Road Initiative'

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz says a federal committee will ask Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews why he wilfully pursued the Belt and Road Initiative and what he hoped to gain from it.

Mr Andrews will be asked to front the Senate’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee to answer questions about his decision to sign on to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The Belt and Road Initiative agreement, which ties Victoria to Beijing's push to bankroll infrastructure projects around the world, could be quashed under a new Foreign Relations Bill which will allow the Commonwealth to overturn agreements made between state and foreign powers.

The Senate's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee has written to all premiers and chief ministers seeking submissions on the bill and is hoping Mr Andrews will agree to appear before the Senate’s inquiry.

Mr Abetz said the committee would ask the premier what advice he sought and received from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the lead up to signing off on the agreement.

“Why he then wilfully pursued the Belt and Road Initiative, and what did he hope to gain from it,” he said.

“And what did he think it would do for China’s very aggressive push for the Belt and Road initiative to all the other countries where China has tried to implement this.”

Mr Abetz said the Belt and Road initiative was a “debt trap” for many countries across the world, and the problem with Victoria signing up to it is it gives a “cloak of respectability to this terrible, terrible initiative”.

“We’re willing to listen to what the premier has to say and today he basically said that he was fully immersed in the COVID situation and therefore wasn’t turning his mind to it,” he said.

“Well, if he can only deal with COVID and that’s all he’s been dealing with, can I say it’s been a pretty terrible effort.

“Spending all his time on (dealing with COVID), he’s been an absolute abject failure.”

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