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Pacific News Minute: Australian Prime Minister In US, Watching Politics Back Home

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Duc Thanh/AP
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FILE -- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during his visit to the Hanoi Formula One Grand Prix construction site in Hanoi, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. Morrison is on an official visit to Vietnam from Aug. 22-24, 2019.

As he begins a state visit to the United States, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison leaves a tricky political situation back home.

 

 

 

 

Americans are about to see a lot of Morrison. After a state dinner at the White House, he’ll make what’s being billed as a major speech in Chicago and then attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

 

Morrison is sure to keep a close eye on politics back home.

 

While Morrison lead his conservative coalition to an upset victory in elections last spring, his government has the narrowest of majorities in Parliament …one single vote.

 

Over the past two weeks, reports from Australia’s ABC and The Herald Sun Newspaper have exposed links between the Chinese Communist Party and Liberal MP Gladys Liu. She is the first Chinese-Australian elected to Parliament, but after being hailed for breaking through what some call the “Bamboo Ceiling,” she finds herself at the center of the deepening controversy over the extent of Chinese influence in Australia.

 

She has not helped her own case. In an uncomfortable interview on Sky News Australia, Liu said she couldn’t remember whether she’d been  a member of organizations tied to the Chinese Communist Party and gave uncertain answers on the legality of Chinese policy in the South China Sea. Since then, she’s not spoken, to the media or to Parliament.

 

When members of the opposition Labour Party raised questions about her fitness for office, Prime Minister Morrison thundered to her defense. “It’s a ridiculous suggestion,” he said, “and I think an insult to every single Chinese Australian in this country.”

 

Morrison also raised the case of Sam Dastyari, a Labour senator who resigned in disgrace over his ties to China, but then Morrison left himself open to charges of hypocrisy when he repeatedly referred to Dastyari as “Shanghai Sam.”

 

  

  

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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