China conversation is 'informed': minister

Foreign Minister Marise Payne says Australia is leading an "informed conversation" on China.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne says Australia is leading an "informed conversation" on China.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne insists her government is leading an "informed conversation" on Australia's relationship with China.

The assurance comes as Labor urges Senator Payne and Prime Minister Scott Morrison to ensure they are leading a "sensible, calm and mature discussion" on the topic.

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong has written to Senator Payne, saying a quality discussion is particularly important as Australia's relationship with China has entered a "new phase".

"Challenges may intensify and become harder to manage in the future," Senator Wong wrote in a letter sent on Sunday.

The opposition also wants a "detailed and comprehensive briefing" on the topic prepared for all federal parliamentarians, by agencies such as the department of foreign affairs and office of national intelligence.

"It is the job of all parliamentarians to protect and advance Australia's national interest. Being well briefed is the first step," Senator Wong said.

The letter comes after Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie recently likened the global response to China's rise to Europe's lack of preparedness for the rise of Nazi Germany.

Mr Hastie, who chairs the intelligence and security committee, drew a mixed reaction from his coalition colleagues and condemnation from Beijing.

Senator Payne says the Morrison government is already leading an "informed conversation" on foreign affairs, including on key bilateral relationships like Australia's relationship with China.

"The prime minister and I regularly address these complex issues. We have steadfastly avoided politicisation of these matters," she told AAP in a statement.

The relationship is mutually beneficial but that does not mean ignoring differences, she added.

"As foreign minister I seek to address any differences with respect while remaining focused on protecting Australians and our national interests, values and sovereignty."

The minister said she would consider Senator Wong's letter once she receives it, after it was flagged in a television interview.

But there is some material that only the national security committee of cabinet is cleared to receive.

Detailed briefings are also received by federal parliament's intelligence and security committee, where Labor's Kristina Keneally recently replaced Senator Wong.

Other briefings are made through separate committees on foreign affairs, defence and trade.

Australian Associated Press