Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, carrying his dog Toto, welcomes Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin at Kirribilli House in Sydney on Friday. Photo: AFP

PLAYING IT DOWN: The Australian prime minister described the trip as a 'backbench visit,' adding that he had 'no idea' why the lawmakers were going


A group of Australian lawmakers is scheduled to arrive in Taiwan today for a five-day visit, a spokesperson for one of the politicians said yesterday.

The bipartisan trip is the first such Taiwan visit in more than three years, a period marked by a long disruption to air travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Details of the visit were confirmed by a spokesperson for Scott Buchholz, a Liberal Party lawmaker in the delegation.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese sought to play down the mission's significance after it was first reported by the Weekend Australian newspaper.

“There have been backbench visits to Taiwan for a long time. This is another one. This isn’t a government visit,” he told reporters.

Albanese said the two major Australian political parties support Canberra's “one China” policy.

Asked about the aims of the trip, he said: “I have no idea. I'm not going. You should ask them.”

The delegation of six members of the Australian parliament includes center-left ruling Labor Party lawmakers as well as the opposition Liberal Party and its ally, the National Party.

Former Australian deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce is part of the group, the spokesman said.

The lawmakers are scheduled to meet President Tsai Ing-wen, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu and other senior officials, the Weekend Australian said.

The visit, backed by Taiwan, aims to convey a desire for peace in the Asia-Pacific region, it said.

“Just because we are friends with Taiwan does not mean we can’t be friends with China,” Buchholz told the newspaper.

Plans for the trip had been kept quiet to prevent China from lobbying against it, the report said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (Xi Jinping) called for better relations with Australia when he met Albanese in Indonesia last month for the first formal summit between the two countries in years.

It was seen as an opening for improved ties between the major trading partners.

China has been angry by Australia's willingness to legislate against overseas influence operations, its ban on Huawei Technologies Co (Huawei) from 5G contracts and its call for an independent investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beijing has levied punitive sanctions on Australian goods and has frozen ministerial contacts in the past few years.

News source: TAIPEI TIMES