The prime minister has labelled China's decision to ban two members of the Australian government from visiting the country "very disappointing".
Scott Morrison said it was up to Chinese authorities to explain the move and defended the right of Liberal colleagues Andrew Hastie and James Paterson to speak out about human rights.
"They were denied visas, which I think was very disappointing," Mr Morrison told Adelaide radio FiveAA on Monday.
"The response by Senator Paterson and Andrew Hastie I thought was spot on. I thought it was very measured, it was very strong, I thought it was very appropriate.
"It's for others to explain as to why they took the view that they did - the Chinese authorities. But we're an open democracy, we speak our minds as individuals and certainly James and Andrew have always been known for that, we'll always be who we are."
The pair have been blocked from entering China until they "repent" for criticising Beijing.
They have each spoken out against Chinese attempts to exert influence in Australia, the detention of Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the mass detention of Uighurs.
Neither man intends to scale back their criticism.
"I'm not really the repenting type - I'm agnostic - but even if I was I wouldn't be following the commands of foreign powers to repent on my political views," Senator Paterson told ABC Radio.
"Even if I wanted to change my views and soften them, I feel like it's impossible for me to do so now that I've been issued such a demand from the Chinese embassy."
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the visa ban was "unfortunate".
"We support freedom of expression here in Australia," Mr Albanese told Sky News.
"There are genuine and legitimate concerns about human rights in China, particularly what we hear about the treatment of the Uighurs and the concerns about what is happening in Hong Kong."
Meanwhile, Australia has quietly discontinued a human rights program in China after more than two decades.
"It wasn't getting the job done," Mr Morrison said.
The prime minister said human rights concerns would be raised with China through a range of other channels.
Asked whether China respected Australia's democracy, Mr Morrison said: "They respect our sovereignty, I mean, they have a different system to us."
"We're not looking to adopt their system and they're not looking to adopt ours."
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, fresh from delivering a keynote speech on Australia's economic relationship with China, described the visa decision as disappointing and counterproductive.
"But ultimately our relationship with China is very broadly based," he told reporters in Sydney.
"It covers a whole range of areas and, as the treasurer, I want to see that economic relationship continue to deliver dividends for the Australian people. I want to see that relationship continue to be in our national interest."
The Chinese embassy has said the Liberal politicians could travel to China if they apologised for their remarks.
"As long as the people concerned genuinely repent and redress their mistakes, view China with objectivity and reason, respect China's system and mode of development chosen by the Chinese people, the door of dialogue and exchanges will always remain open," a spokesperson said.