Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham has labelled China’s travel warning against visiting Australia as “unhelpful”, rejecting the idea Australia is unsafe for tourists.
Speaking to the ABC’s Radio National yesterday, Birmingham said that he accepted Asian-Australians had faced incidents of racism since the COVID-19 crisis began.
However, he said the idea being pushed by China that Australia is an unsafe destination for visitors “does not stand up to scrutiny”.
It comes after the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued an alert warning against travelling to Australia, claiming a “significant increase” in racist attacks on “Chinese and Asian people”.
It also follows the imposition of tariffs on Australian barley last month by China and banned imports from four abattoirs, reportedly representing 35 per cent of Australia’s Chinese beef exports.
“Australia’s a country where our leaders and our communities condemn racism and where we have very clear processes in place if violent attacks occur for people to report them,” Minister Birmingham told Radio National.
“But I think the idea that Australia, in any way, is an unsafe destination for visitors to come to is one that just does not stand up to scrutiny.”
Asked by Radio National’s Fran Kelly whether he believed China was attempting to do diplomatic damage to Australia with the travel warning, Minister Birmingham said it was unclear.
“It’s difficult for me to try to ascribe motivations to other countries; this is an unhelpful statement, no doubt about that,” he said.
Chinese nationals represent the largest inbound market for visitor arrivals to Australia behind New Zealand, with some 1.4 million Chinese short-term visitors arriving in Australia in 2019.
While the Morrison government has unequivocally dismissed Beijing’s travel warning, anecdotal evidence disclosed to ABC News has shown there has been a spike in racist attacks toward people of East Asian appearance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, foreigners in China have also reported a spike in xenophobia during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the public broadcaster.