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INTERVIEW/Visiting Australian parliamentarian touts bipartisan support for Taiwan

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Paul Fletcher, Australian MP of the Liberal Party, takes an interview with CNA in Taipei Wednesday. CNA photo Sept. 28, 2023

Taipei, Sept. 28 (CNA) A member of a visiting Australian parliamentary delegation said on Wednesday that the bipartisan group is sending an important signal about the importance of the Australia-Taiwan relationship.

In an interview with CNA, Paul Fletcher, a member of Australia's House of Representatives, said that the delegation is made up of eight parliamentarians from both the lower and upper houses.

"Very importantly, it [the delegation] has members from both of our major political parties, the Liberal Party, which I'm a member of, and the Labor Party, which is presently in government in Australia," he said.

Fletcher said the fact that both major parties are represented in the visiting group is an important signal as to the value of the relationship between Australia and Taiwan.

The delegation's visit followed the one made by a bipartisan delegation of Australian parliamentarians in December last year, the first such visit since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The visit also comes at a sensitive time as Australia endeavors to mend strained relations with Beijing, a situation that originated from the country's request for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19. In response, China imposed trade restrictions on various Australian goods in 2020 but started to soften its stance following a change of government in Canberra last year.

When asked if he has been warned by China -- which asserts that Taiwan is part of its territory and is prepared to retake it by force if necessary -- prior to the trip to Taipei, Fletcher said the activities he and other Australian Members of Parliament engage in are those "we, in our judgment, determine to be appropriate."

The decision to travel to Taiwan has been influenced by a number of factors, including a number of constituents who are of Taiwanese origin, Fletcher said.

The factors also include his own background as former Minister for Communications and his current role as the Shadow Minister for Science and the Arts and for Government Services and the Digital Economy. This is particularly relevant given the developments in semiconductors and computers in Taiwan, the parliamentarian noted.

Touching upon potential cooperation in semiconductor industry and clean energy between Australia and Taiwan, Fletcher said quantum computing would appear to be an area where there is a potential for fruitful collaboration as Australia is a country with significant academic expertise in the field.

In the field of energy transition, the parliamentarian identified hydrogen energy as an area of cooperation on the path to net zero between Taiwan and Australia, which is Taiwan's largest energy supplier of coal and liquefied natural gas.

"Just as there is collaboration today, between Australia and Taiwan, when it comes to existing forms of energy, such as liquefied natural gas, it's possible that hydrogen could similarly be an area of collaboration in the future," Fletcher said.

There have already been experimental voyages using vessels specially equipped to transport ammonia, and it's a modified version of the technology that's used for liquefied natural gas, he explained.

In the future, hydrogen in a liquefied form could travel from Australia to other countries, including Taiwan, Fletcher added.

During their four-day visit which began on Monday, the group met with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and other senior officials to discuss various topics, including Indo-Pacific regional affairs and digital and information security, according to Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Beijing's propaganda platform, the Global Times, on Tuesday described the visit as "provocative behavior" and "a test for Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese."

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