Mr Morrison spoke about the Chinese surveillance ship that was stationed off eastern Australia for three weeks earlier this year.
Mr Morrison said the vessel had every right to be in international waters but he expected Beijing to afford Australian navy ships the same right in the disputed South China Sea.
“They have every right to be there, under International maritime law, just like we have every right to be in the South China Sea,” Mr Morrison said during a visit to South Australia.
Mr Morrison added that there was a “very serious situation” in the Pacific region involving China.
“I think the presence of the Chinese Navy, which we were aware of, and they were keeping a close eye on us and we were keeping a close eye on them. The importance of that is to highlight Australians that there is a very serious situation in the Indo-Pacific.
“I have been saying that for a long time. These things are true. Australia had to be able to stand up, and that requires great strength.”