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The 'Wolverines' VS China: Australian MPs upset Beijing

Chinese state media has urged Scott Morrison to 'muzzle' a group of anti-China MPs known as the Wolverines to avoid 'irreversible damage'.

The group including Liberal MPs Andrew Hastie and Tim Wilson, Liberal senator James Paterson and Labor senator Kimberley Kitching is concerned about the growing power of China and often speaks out against the communist superpower. 

The members last year informally branded themselves the Wolverines, the name of an American high school group who fought off a Soviet invasion in the 1984 film Red Dawn. 

Small stickers with wolf claws have been spotted on their office windows in parliament.

Earlier this year Mr Hastie (left) and Kimberley Kitching (right) went for dinner with the US ambassador Arthur B Culvahouse (centre) in Canberra. The Global Times accused them of making him an 'honorary' member of the Wolverines

Liberal MP Tim Wilson (left) and Liberal senator James Paterson (right) are said to be members of the Wolverines

Members of the group aim to push back against Chinese influence in Australia and have been particularly vocal since China slapped tariffs on barley and suspended some meat imports after Canberra called for a coronavirus inquiry.

Over the weekend, the state-owned Global Times newspaper published an article saying the government should silence these anti-China politicians or face further economic punishment. 

Liu Qing, director of the Department for Asia and the Pacific Study at the China Institute of International Studies, said: 'If Australia allows such negative powers to hurt China-Australia relations, irreversible damage will be caused to economic cooperation and trade with China, and would hammer Australia's interests amid the coronavirus fallout.'

He added: 'The Morrison government should release more positive signals to restore bilateral ties with China. If Australia can make more concrete efforts, the bilateral ties could be brought back on track.'

Hong Kong riot police fire tear gas as hundreds of protesters march along a downtown street during a pro-democracy protest against Beijing's national security legislation

The article said that if the Wolverines keep speaking out then 'Australia could find itself involved in a China-US 'Cold War' due to cheap tricks from second-rate politicians.'

Mr Hastie, a former solider turned MP for Canning, said he would not back down in the face of such threats. 

'Won't be intimidated and we won't be silenced,' he told Sky News on Sunday night.

He also said that backbenchers do not represent the government and are entitled to voice their opinions as part of the democratic process.

'Our public rhetoric is very low key, and it's not inflammatory at all,' he said.

The Global Times article notes that the government has not supported the Wolverines, but accuses Scott Morrison of 'indulging' them.

Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds during the closing ceremony of the third session of the 13th National People's Congress on 28 May

Last year Mr Paterson and Mr Hastie were both denied visas to China after speaking out against the mass internment of Muslims in western China.

Mr Wilson even went to Hong Kong to support pro-democracy protesters and has been vocal about the situation there since.

At the start of the year, the Wolverines issued a statement to The Times newspaper in London voicing anger that the UK government had allowed Huawei equipment to be part of the country's 5G network. 

It comes after Beijing became infuriated by Australia's calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of the virus, believing that it was a 'malicious' attempt to blame and 'stigmatize' China.

Mr Morrison has called for a ban on wildlife wet markets. Pictured: Xihua Farmers' Market in Guangzhou

CHINA'S COVID-19 'COVER-UP'

Mr Morrison was the first world leader to demand a ban on wildlife wet markets, where the virus may have originated, and said inspectors should be able to enter a country suffering from a pandemic without the government's consent.

China slapped an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley and suspended imports from four Australian beef suppliers in apparent revenge - and warned of further punishment.

About one third of Australia's total exports - including iron ore, gas, coal and food - go to China, bringing in around $135billion per year and providing thousands of jobs. 

In mid May fears of further retaliation were raised when China relaxed checks on iron-ore imports in a move that could favour Australia's competitors.  

Australia is China's largest iron-ore supplied, shipping $63billion worth in 2019. 

On 22 May the US said it would ban trade with 33 Chinese companies linked with spying or the Chinese military in a move that could signal the start of a 'new cold war', according to Chinese media.

State-controlled newspaper the Global Times threatened Australia with more economic sanctions if it backed the US in the matter.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said America 'stands with Australia'.

Mr Morrison has repeatedly insisted the two countries are 'great mates' and their alliance is strong.

Trade minister tells wine and cheese exporters not to give China an excuse to ban their products

 The federal trade minister has told wine and cheese exporters not to give Beijing any excuse to ban their products after beef suppliers were blacklisted over a technicality. 

The federal government has denied barley tariffs and beef bans are payback for Australia's demands for a coronavirus inquiry - but Trade Minister Simon Birmingham told Australian companies to make sure all their paper work is in order so that more industries cannot be targeted.

During an interview on 13 May, the ABC's Patricia Karvelas asked him: 'Australian wine and dairy producers are worried they could be next. What reassurances do you have that that won't happen?'

Senator Birmingham replied: 'Everyone at present should be, as they always should, dotting their Is and crossing their Ts and leaving no scope for any grievance to be raised.'

He said he could see no reason why wine or cheese industries would fall short of quarantine, health or labelling standards they need to meet to export to China.

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