The prime minister is digging in behind embattled Liberal backbencher Gladys Liu, who is facing intense political pressure over her ties to Beijing.
The first-term federal MP is facing calls to “consider her tenure” after belatedly admitting she was a member of two Chinese government-linked groups from 2003 to 2015.
But Scott Morrison said the rookie politician should be forgiven for giving a “clumsy” interview.
“They (Labor) seek to smear an Australian of Chinese heritage simply for the fact she did a clumsy interview,” he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
“If that were the case, the entire Labor frontbench would have to resign.”
He said the first-term Victorian MP should be “extended some comfort and support”.
It has also emerged that intelligence agencies warned former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull against attending a 2018 fundraiser with associates of Ms Liu.
Separately, there are reports security agencies warned the Liberal Party not to preselect her as a candidate.
Senate crossbencher Rex Patrick said the controversy surrounding Ms Liu was a national security issue.
Senator Patrick said she had reached the threshold of Sam Dastyari, who was forced to resign from parliament over scandals involving Chinese businessmen.
“Ms Lui hasn’t been candid with the people, she hasn’t been candid with the media, and indeed she hasn’t been candid with the parliament,” he told ABC radio.
“She must consider her tenure.”
Labor attempted to suspend proceedings in the lower house on Thursday, calling on Ms Liu to make a statement to the chamber and explain her connections to the Chinese groups.
Ms Liu shook her head as shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus pursued the political tactic before leaving the chamber.
Crossbenchers sided with Labor to support the motion, with Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie urging Ms Liu to explain the situation to help combat a rising distrust in politicians.
Attorney-General Christian Porter suggested the motion was xenophobic.
“It is pretty awful stuff,” he told the chamber.
“Earlier this week, we had a condolence for the last living member of the Menzies government, who helped unravel the White Australia policy, and all these years later this is where we are.”
Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce said Ms Liu, who holds the Victorian seat of Chisholm, should be removed if she’s found to have allegiances to China.
“There is an expectation that you have undivided loyalty to Australia and a sense of patriotism … and there’s no person who has a leave pass from that process,” he told 2GB radio.
“That’s why we have ASIO – to have some form of oversight and to give confidence to the Australian people, that if somebody is not able to pass muster then the appropriate action would be taken to remove them.”
Sam Dastyari, a former Labor senator who resigned from parliament after scandals involving Chinese businessmen, said Ms Liu had questions to answer.
“I don’t know enough about her situation to say whether or not she should resign, that’s a matter for her and that’s a matter for Mr Morrison,” he told Sky News.
“(But) does anyone honestly believe that if she wasn’t a member of the Liberal Party that the prime minister and others wouldn’t be calling for her scalp right now?”