24 March 2009

Chinese official visits to secure IMF reweighting

MARK COLVIN: China's fifth highest official has been paying a three day visit to Australia.

Not that you'd know much about it. The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's office has not gone out of its way to publicise the visit.

In fact, the communist country's official news service Xinhua has given more information about the stop-over than Mr Rudd's office.

From Canberra, Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: The ABC received a tip on Friday night that Li Changchun, the fifth highest ranking official of the Chinese politburo, was arriving that night in Canberra on a chartered flight from China.

Mr Li was stopping off for a special visit to meet the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

The Prime Minister's office confirmed a delegation was due in Canberra that night and that Mr Li was among the party.

Asked if the visit had anything to do with Chinalco's $30-billion investment bid for Rio Tinto or Beijing's future hopes to invest in Australia infrastructure projects, Mr Rudd's office said the Prime Minister was scheduled to have a 90 minute meeting on Saturday, which included lunch, adding that it was 'a private function' at the Lodge.

An assurance was given to find more information.

Details emerged, courtesy of the Chinese media.

XINHUA NEWS READER: The Prime Minister maintaining high level exchanges and he welcomed Rudd and other Australian leaders to visit China. He also suggested expanding economic cooperation on the basis of mutual benefit.

SABRA LANE: China's Xinhua news agency and TV broadcaster CCTV have given accounts of the meeting, releasing more information than the Prime Minister's office.

XINHUA NEWS READER: The accord for steadily advancing negotiations on the free trade agreement, in line with active, pragmatic, balanced and mutually beneficial principles.

SABRA LANE: A day after the lunch, Mr Rudd appeared on Channel Nine to press China's case for greater representation on the International Monetary Fund.

KEVIN RUDD: Here's the key bit: It means a greater role for China. Everyone's expecting China to put its money on the table, that's fine but do you know, in the IMF China's voting rights are current the same as Belgium and the Netherlands. Now, let's just get up with the realities of the 21st century.


So, what are we going to be trying to be fashioning? A greater role for new countries like China in the decision-making powers of the International Monetary Fund.

SABRA LANE: Mr Li, the propaganda chief of the Chinese Government was in Sydney today and met with the ABC's managing director Mark Scott. It's understood the two discussed the ABC's desire to broadcast its international TV service, Australia Network and Radio Australia, across China.

The ABC needs so-called 'landing rights' to broadcast there, those rights are given by the Chinese Government.

Mr Li also had time to meet Federal Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull.

(Sound of conversation between Malcolm Turnbull and Li Changchun)

SABRA LANE: The Opposition leader was happy to answer a question about what the two men discussed.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well I met with Mr Li Changchun and other senior officials in the Chinese Communist Party who are visiting Australia. They raised a number of issues of mutual interest; the Australian Chinese relationship, cooperation on climate change, cooperation on economic matters and obviously they're also very interested in the way in which Chinese investment in Australia is being assessed and considered, and that's clearly relevant to the Chinalco proposed transaction with Rio.

SABRA LANE: Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board is currently assessing Chinalco's offer. The Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan will have the final say.

The former treasurer, Peter Costello, says the deal shouldn't go ahead.

The Prime Minister's office was again this afternoon offered the chance to clarify Mr Rudd's meeting.

A spokeswoman says the men discussed the importance of the Australia-China relationship, the need to continue developing economic and political ties and a broader relationship between the two countries.

Mr Rudd's office says the leaders agreed that Australia and China were both committed to ensuring the Asia-Pacific region remains prosperous and stable.

Information the world already knew, thanks to the Chinese media which operates under communist rule.

MARK COLVIN: Sabra Lane.

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