Visa delays see mayor miss China trade trip

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Graham Pittock

Graham Pittock

MORNINGTON Peninsula mayor Cr Graham Pittock abandoned a trade mission to China last month after it became too hard to arrange a visa.

Cr Pittock said the shire “lost” $1500 on flight bookings in the exercise after he was invited to speak at an event being organised by the China-based Australian International Trade Association.

“It [the trip] was cancelled because I became too busy,” Cr Pittock said.

He said the eight to 10-day visit to China would have given the shire “experience of doing business with internationally”.

Cr Pittock said he had been approached by the AITA and was now considering attending another of the association’s events in June.

He said it had taken three days to get a visa “because of my incompetence and lack of experience”.

While in China he had planned to speak about the Mornington Peninsula. “We need to learn how they do business in China.”

If Cr Pittock had gone to China it would have been his second overseas trip since being elected mayor in November 2015.

The shire paid for Cr Pittock, Cr Hugh Fraser and the shire’s then renewable resources team leader Jessica Wingad to attend last year’s United Nations’ climate change conference in Paris.

Asked on 6 April for details of the mayor’s planned trip to China, the shire’s communications and media manager Mark Kestigian replied: “There is no formal response to the trip overseas as it did not eventuate and to the best of my knowledge, cost the shire nothing.”

A 2007 investigative report by Bill Birnbauer in The Sunday Age listed complaints by some Australians about the AITA’s handling of work visas within China and the adverse reactions of some Australian politicians about links the organisation claimed to have with them.

Among those mentioned by the AITA on its website is former Victorian Speaker and MP for Bass Ken Smith, a regular visitor to China. Mr Smith was a councillor and shire president with the former Shire of Hastings.                                

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 3 May 2016

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