(Australian Associated Press)
Scott Morrison has come out on the front foot ahead of a rare news conference from the Chinese ambassador.
China has repeatedly criticised Australia for speaking out about human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and blames the Morrison government for the poor state of the relationship.
The prime minister said there was no doubt the Chinese relationship was heavily strained.
“We want a positive relationship, but we will have a positive relationship that is consistent with Australia acting in accordance with its values and its national character,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
“That would never be something that we would yield for the sake of a relationship.”
Mr Morrison said Australia’s objectives were clear, stressing the need to work with international allies to ensure free and open trade across the Indo-Pacific.
“We would be keen to work with China to those ends as we have consistently said,” he said.
“We will continue to work positively to that end and we would welcome discussions that are about those objectives.”
The prime minister also wants to see a more positive relationship between China and the United States, given the tensions it is creating for the region.
“But those relationships can’t be achieved at the product of a less free and a less open Indo-Pacific.”
China has launched a series of damaging trade strikes against Australia after Mr Morrison called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.
The Chinese government also remains furious with Australia over foreign interference and investment laws, and the decision to ban Huawei from the country’s 5G rollout.
Senior ministers have gone many months without contact from their Chinese counterparts despite repeated requests.