The West Australian Premier Colin Barnett is clearly not a Greg Sheridan disciple. In China this week on a trade mission Mr Barnett has very conspicuously shied away from making any public protest about the imprisonment of Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu. On the day when the foreign editor of the national daily writes of how galling is “the needless and sterile pro-appeasement attitude taken by those quasi-academic commentators who dominate debate about China”, Premier Barnett has said raising the case of Mr Hu with his Chinese hosts was not appropriate. It is difficult to think of anything more pro-appeasement than that. I look forward to the serve he gets tomorrow!
Mr Barnett says Australia needs to continue encouraging Chinese investment in Australian projects and is banking his reputation on getting the multi-billion-dollar Oakajee Port and Rail project in the Mid West up as one of them.
“I was encouraged with meetings with Oakajee Port and Rail that understandings have been reached with Chinese organisations about the design of the port and construction of railway,” he said this morning. “This is starting to bring China in, not only as an owner of an iron ore deposit but also very much as a participant in the whole development.”
In the mean time the Communist Government continues to assert that it has all the evidence it needs to prove that the Rio Tinto iron ore negotiator has broken Chinese law. Chinese foreign minister He Yafei told reporters yesterday that China has “sufficient evidence” that shows Rio Tinto executives stole state secrets.Mr He met with his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith in Egypt last week where the two discussed the case.
“I stressed that we have sufficient evidence showing that the individuals involved obtained China’s state secrets using illegal means,” Mr He told reporters.
“The case has entered into the judicial process and I requested the Australian side to respect China’s judicial sovereignty,” he said.
Not that appears to have been any immediate detrimental impact on the negotiations between Rio Tinto and other producers when it comes to the prices to be paid for Australian iron ore. The China Daily reported this morning that according to “industry experts”, the spot price of iron ore will climb in the second half of the year if the Japanese and South Korean economies recover, and this possibility may force China to accept the 33-percent discount in full-year ore rates now being offered by global miners.