Former ministers shunned by China have welcomed Beijing’s renewed sense of co-operation with Canberra.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese held a 32-minute formal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 on Tuesday – the first official dialogue between leaders in six years.
Mr Albanese said the bilateral relationship was an important one, but Australia “won’t resile” from its interests or values.
Mr Xi thanked Mr Albanese for handling the bilateral relations in a “mature manner” and said that the relationship was “worth cherishing” after years of difficulties.
The last prime minister to have a formal meeting with Mr Xi, Malcolm Turnbull, said while the meeting wasn’t “exactly a deep dive”, it was important.
“We should be looking forward to a more normal relationship resuming,” Mr Turnbull told ABC Radio.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton welcomed the meeting, saying the Liberal Party would always seek to provide bipartisan support to the government when it comes to international relations in the region.
“We want a normalised relationship, but China has made that very hard over recent years,” Mr Dutton told Sky News.
Mr Dutton said he supported Mr Albanese bringing up the cases of Australian citizens Cheng Lei and Yang Hengjun being “held against their will” in China and the ongoing trade sanctions harming the economy.
“We want to make sure that Australian citizens are treated according to the rule of law and that human rights are respected because at the moment, that’s not happening,” he said.
The opposition’s foreign affairs spokesman, Simon Birmingham, said there should be no expectation of “instant miracles” in the wake of the meeting, but it was a sign of future improvements.
“The ultimate test of dialogue will be the outcomes that are received if this dialogue is successful, to see breakthroughs in regard to those trade barriers … and also critically the just treatment of Australians detained in China,” Senator Birmingham told ABC Radio.
“And then, of course, challenges in terms of engagement within the region, that we must continue to argue for China to respect international law, international rules and norms.”
Mr Albanese said he had a “positive” discussion with Mr Xi about China potentially winding back its trade embargo.
“Australia’s position is very clear. I put the position clearly, firmly but politely,” he said.
Mr Albanese also asked Mr Xi to use his influence with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discourage him from using nuclear weapons.
The two leaders “agreed” there would be further dialogue.