Australia’s left-wing Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday admitted China was responsible for a “regrettable incident” between one of its warships and the crew of an Australian navy vessel but refused to say whether he raised the issue in recent face-to-face talks with President Xi Jinping.
As Breitbart News reported, a vessel from the People’s Liberation Army-Navy was accused a week ago of likely causing injuries to Australian naval divers by operating its sonar while they were trying to clear fishing nets from their ship’s propellers.
The Australian government expressed its serious concerns to the Chinese government over what it called the unsafe and unprofessional conduct earlier this past week, Defense Minister Richard Marles said in a statement on his official website.
Between the encounter and Canberra’s statement on the matter a few days later, Albanese spoke to Xi on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific leaders´summit in San Francisco.
Albanese dodged questions on the contents of that meeting and whether he considered Xi Jinping a dictator when he faced the media, in keeping with his recent efforts to appease Beijing.
“Just on President Biden’s remarks yesterday about Xi Jinping being a dictator, is he wrong? Would you agree with him? Is Xi Jinping a dictator?” one reporter asked, Sky News Australia reports.
Albanese responded, emphasising Australia and China’s political systems were “different.”
Australia’s left-wing Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has revealed he would ban social media if granted the powers of a dictator. https://t.co/ghEccxiVvc
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) August 21, 2023
“We have different political systems. Australia has one political system, China has a different political system from Australia. It’s not a democratic state with elections, with multi-party democracies like Australia is,” he said.
Sky News sets out the reporter tried to pose the question again, asking “does that make him a dictator though?” before Albanese snarled, “Well I just answered your question.”
AP reports Albanese reaffirmed on Monday his discussions with Xi were private, rather than a formal bilateral meeting in which content summaries are made public, so there is no transcript of what was allegedly said by way of rebuke from the Australian leader on the issue of the Chinese naval vessel.
“I don´t talk about private meetings on the sidelines, discussions I have with any world leader,” Albanese told Sky News in his Parliament House office.
“It´s something that is a regrettable incident. That´s why we have put our very strong objections to China very clearly, very directly through all of the appropriate channels in all the forums that are available to us,” Albanese added.
Conservative opposition lawmakers have accused Albanese of failing to raise the encounter with Xi because the Australian leader did not want to risk setting back efforts by the left-wing Labor government he leads to please Beijing.