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PM skips backbenchers’ hush-hush Taiwan trip

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A delegation of federal MPs headed to Taiwan for a five-day de facto goodwill mission will make their trip without Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The Prime Minister says the group, which includes both government and opposition members of parliament and will arrive in Taiwan on Sunday, is more of a “backbench” visit rather than a Labor-led trip.

The delegation is the first of its type to visit Taiwan since 2019.

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“There remains a bipartisan position when it comes to China and when it comes to support for the status quo on Taiwan,” Mr Albanese told reporters in South Australia on Saturday.

Asked about the travelling politicians’ intentions, the prime minister said: “I have no idea. I’m not going, you should ask them”.

The group includes former National Party leader Barnaby Joyce, a spokesperson for Joyce confirmed on Saturday. Two Labor MPs are also said to be going.

The delegation will reportedly meet with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, with the visit having support from Taiwan’s foreign ministry.

Kept under wraps

The trip – reportedly kept secret to stop Chinese diplomats in Canberra lobbying for its cancellation – is said to include meetings on security, trade, agriculture and indigenous affairs.

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The visit to democratic Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as Chinese territory, comes as the federal government has moved to repair its strained diplomatic relations with China.

Australia has clashed with China – its largest trading partner – over trade disputes and the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, amid a growing Chinese presence in the Pacific.

Mr Albanese last month met President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia, raising expectations of closer bilateral ties.

-AAP

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