Under a new Legislation, which gives powers to the Federal Government to review agreements reached by the Australian states and universities, Foreign Minister Marise Payne on 21 April cancelled two MOUs signed by the state of Victoria under the labor government of Dan Andrews in 2018 and 2019 with China’s national Development and Reform Commission on Chinese participation in infrastructure projects under China’s Belt and Road initiatives.
Two similar arrangements signed by the Victoria education department with Syria in 1999 and Iran in 2004 were also cancelled. The Australian Foreign Minister stated that she found these four arrangements inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and territory Arrangement) Act 2020. Liberal Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull had not agreed to an MoU with China on the Belt and Road initiative.
The Australian Federal Parliament had passed legislation in December 2020, which allowed veto powers over foreign arrangements by States, local bodies and universities in a broad range of sectors such as infrastructure, trade cooperation, tourism, cultural collaboration, science, health and education, including university research partnerships after China subverted the system by going through the state labor government of Dan Andrews.