Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has hit out at China for spreading disinformation during the COVID-19 outbreak, saying it is “troubling that some countries are using the pandemic to undermine liberal democracy”.

Speaking to Julia Baird on ABC’s The Drum, Ashley Townshend, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence, says the Foreign Minister’s speech is a “clear statement of the way the Australian government and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have behaved in recent years in terms of a China policy setting”.

Mr Townshend says the stance doesn’t necessarily mark a significant shift but is in line with the approach that’s been taken over the past few years, standing up for Australian interests in a more confident manner against what is “clearly more forthright and aggressive Chinese actions directed against Australia and other countries”.

“It’s clear that there is a move by Australia to be more assertive in its interests and pushing back with positive and accurate narratives,” Mr Townshend says. “Chinese disinformation has a big role to play in that.”