Lee probes the representative from Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Mr Fletcher, on the details of Australia's involvement with China in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Senator RHIANNON: I would like to move on to some questions about China. I understand that Australia is currently working with China on an antimalarial project in Papua New Guinea. Is Australia planning to work with China on other development projects in the Asia-Pacific region?
Mr Fletcher: At the moment, I do not believe we have plans for further cooperative aid programs with China.
Senator RHIANNON: I think you said that you 'understand'. Does that mean you need to take it on notice?
Mr Fletcher: Yes, I can take it on notice.
Senator RHIANNON: The question was: is Australia planning on working with China? You have taken that on notice. Has the Chinese government approached Australia with any proposals for future cooperation?
Mr Fletcher: I do not believe so but I can check that on notice as well.
Senator RHIANNON: Will Australia appoint a board member to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank?
Mr Varghese: I think we already have appointed a board member who is a senior Treasury official.
Senator RHIANNON: Did that need to be approved by cabinet?
Mr Varghese: It is not our appointment as in a DFAT's portfolio appointment. It is a Treasury process. I think you would be best addressing that to the Treasury.
Senator RHIANNON: In order to understand, because this is a new bank, it is not like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank where our aid money is going. There is a development component?
Mr Varghese: The AIIB is not an aid-based bank. The contributions to the AIIB are not official development assistance.
Senator RHIANNON: It does not come across you in any way?
Mr Varghese: No, we are closely involved in what the AIIB is doing because its core agenda is the infrastructure agenda in the region, in which we take a very close interest, and we work very cooperatively with Treasury on it. But the lead department on the AIIB is Treasury, not DFAT.