Daniel Andrews calls on Scott Morrison to offer up list of export markets on which Victoria should now focus

Daniel Andrews has pointedly urged Scott Morrison to explain alternative export markets for Victorian goods after the prime minister unveiled new powers that may be used to tear up the states belt and road agreement with China.
The Victorian premier defended the agreement as important for Victorian jobs, despite the federal Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, saying he was supportive of federal authority to cancel international deals reached by state and territory governments, councils and universities.
Morrison told reporters the move was aimed at protecting Australias national sovereign interest rather than being directed against China or any other country, and argued it did not contradict his belief in federalism because foreign affairs was always a commonwealth responsibility.
Under legislation to be introduced to parliament next week, the foreign minister would gain the power to scrap current and future agreements with foreign governments if they adversely affect Australias foreign relations or are inconsistent with our foreign policy.
One of the agreements that is clearly in the governments sights is the Victorian deal with the Chinese government to look at ways to cooperate under Xi Jinpings signature belt and road initiative although Morrison said he would not prejudice the review process by declaring it would be axed.
Andrews said in light of Morrisons announcement, he hoped the prime minister would soon release a list of prospective free trade agreements and the details of other export markets on which Victoria should focus.
If the prime ministers got time to be doing those things, then thats fine for him, the premier said. I dont. I am exclusively focused on fighting this virus and then ensuring weve got the strongest economy that we can possibly have on the other side of this.
Andrews said while foreign affairs was a matter for the commonwealth government, a big part of his job as premier was growing jobs and sending Victorian products overseas and helping businesses to be more profitable and employ more people.
The former Liberal premier of Western Australia Colin Barnett branded the proposed power as one of the most backwards steps since federation and said he hoped the bill failed or was withdrawn, the ABC reported. He also expressed fears about its impact on the already-strained relationship with China.
The University of New South Wales deputy vice-chancellor George Williams said there was no constitutional issue in blocking local government and universities but issues could arise for a law seeking to prevent state governments from entering agreements.
That was because the high court had recognised states have immunity from certain commonwealth laws that affect the operation of state governments and their capacity to function. He said the bill should be scrutinised carefully.
Two constitutional experts, professors Anne Twomey and Cheryl Saunders, told Guardian Australia the legislation needed to be seen but the move would probably be constitutionally valid because of the commonwealths external affairs power.
Twomey said she doubted the implied intergovernmental immunity would apply because it would seem unlikely that cancelling a memorandum of understanding would harm the states capacity to function.
As foreign engagement is a relatively minor aspect of state governance, it is doubtful that placing such limits on it would sufficiently burden a state in the exercise of its constitutional powers.
She added: I suspect that the real issues in relation to this proposal are practical ones, rather than constitutional ones. If the effect of action under the proposed law is to cause a breach of a contract, there could be huge financial costs involved, if damages are payable for the breach.
Would the commonwealth compensate a state in such a case if it became liable to pay the damages?
Saunders called for transparency and accountability in legislation about how the commonwealth would exercise its powers, arguing it was necessary to avoid bureaucratisation.
Universities Australia said it was in early discussions with the foreign affairs and education departments on the implications for universities of the forthcoming bill.
The groups chief executive, Catriona Jackson, said it would be very important to discuss the exact definitions and scale of what the new laws are intended to capture.
It is critically important to strike the right balance between national security and the research collaboration which is driving so many advances in knowledge including the search for a Covid-19 vaccine, she said.
The federal Labor leader, who has previously promised that a government he led would not take part in the belt and road scheme, said he would examine the legislation.
But the idea that the national interests should be looked after by the federal government when it comes to foreign policy is something that were very supportive of; I would regard as completely unremarkable, Albanese said.
He said China had shifted under Xi to become far more interventionist. That trend had to be taken into account when weighing up Australias national interests, he said.
But the shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, went on the attack over Morrisons political tactics, telling parliament the Trumpian move was aimed at chasing headlines and it seemed the prime minister now wants the entire nation to be overcome with amnesia about his own record.
Dreyfus said the government wanted people to forget the federal governments own decision to reach a belt and road-related memorandum of understanding with China in 2017. Labors foreign affairs spokeswoman, Penny Wong, called on Morrison to release that agreement in the interests of transparency.