The Chinese bureaucrat pushed the point.
Was, he wondered, Australia expecting the world to do more to address climate change than it was prepared to do itself?
Back home, the Abbott government was furiously arguing that there was nothing unusual about this – that the probe was a standard part of the laborious theatre of international climate negotiations.
But the Chinese representative pointed out Australia was on the end of more questions than any other country. They came not just from China, but also the US, Brazil and South Africa.
"I think he's right. We got some 36 questions on notice, so there is substantial interest in Australia's climate change policies," Peter Woolcott, Australia's environment ambassador, later told the meeting.
"Particularly since the change of government, and the change in our approach to the Direct Action scheme to address climate change challenges in Australia."
While some in Australia make the case that the country is largely irrelevant as a tiny contributor to global emissions – about 1 per cent of the total – the meeting in Bonn, Germany earlier this month suggested the international community thinks otherwise.
To many observers it was clear that other countries are closely watching Australia's climate change debate as work continues on a global treaty due to be signed in Paris late this year.
Australia is the 13th biggest emitter in the world. While China and the US are the main players, campaigners make the point that if countries of Australia's size and emissions do nothing, the problem won't be solved. Its emissions per head are among the world's worst.
It is through this prism that Australia is viewed in the United Nations climate talks. What it says, and does, matters.
Ian Fry, an Australian who represents the tiny island nation of Tuvalu at the talks, says: "The general question I get from others in the negotiations is, 'Does the Australian government really believe in climate change, does Australia's leader really believe in climate change?'"
In response, he tells them: "I have my doubts."
Asked if this is an understatement, he laughs, then adds: "I think people in foreign affairs are struggling with the government's position on climate change.
"There are clearly people representing Australia who do believe in climate change, but they struggle to defend the indefensible."
Cartoon: Matt Golding.
Don Henry, who is the former head of the Australian Conservation Foundation and now works closely with Al Gore, says before arriving in Bonn he was unsure how much focus there really was on Australia's position.
He left convinced it was in the international spotlight. "And it's not just small countries, like the island states, that are watching closely," he says. "It's our biggest trading partners. It's countries like the US and China."
Earlier this month a report by the Renewable Energy Policy Network found for the first time in 40 years the growth in clean energy has seen emissions from electricity stop rising while economic growth continued. Australia bucked the trend last year, its electricity-sector emissions increasing.
It followed the Abbott government making good on its pre-election commitment to abolish the carbon price, making Australia the first country to get rid of this type of scheme.
Fergus Green, an Australian working alongside economist Lord Nicholas Stern at the London School of Economics' Grantham Institute, says that sparked global interest.
Ostensibly, the UN does not care how a country meets its targets, as long as it does. The Abbott government has insisted its Direct Action scheme can do the job.
Nevertheless, Green says dumping the carbon price "is a badge of honour for the Abbott government, but it was a marker of regress according to the rest of the world".
It is in this context that Australia will, mid next month, announce its next target, the key commitment it will make towards the Paris summit.
Europe is among those watching closely.
At the launch of "European Climate Diplomacy Day" in Melbourne last week, German ambassador to Australia Christoph Müller told Fairfax Media that Australia has repeatedly said it wants a strong, meaningful and binding outcome in Paris.
"We are all waiting in eager anticipation of the Australian government formulating its goals [for] beyond 2020," he says.
While the European Union has a target to cut emissions 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030, Müller says there is recognition Australia's national circumstances differ. For example, Australia's population is still growing rapidly while Europe's has stalled.
"We would understand for that reason Australia cannot be as ambitious as we are in terms of absolute figures," Müller says. But he adds Australia was also "wasting a lot of energy" and should also take that into account.
French amabassador Christophe Lecourtier and Greman ambassador Christoph Müller. Picture: Justin McManus.
French ambassador Christophe Lecourtier says with the resource boom easing, setting a new climate goal was a chance for Australia to "define a new economy strategy". He notes discussion of the economic benefits of acting on climate change, including the development of new industries, has been sometimes missing from the Australian climate debate.
Jennifer Morgan, the global climate program director at the World Resources Institute, says Australia's performance at the G20 made it appear out of sync with the rest of the world. It took pressure from several countries to eventually force the issue on to the official communique.
Since then there has been some diplomatic redress from Australia. Many observers credit this to the engagement of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who attended the 2014 conference in Lima.
There, she is understood to have spent significant time on the phone convincing the Prime Minister to make a $200 million contribution to the Green Climate Fund to help poor nations tackle climate change. Abbott had previously ruled out any commitment.
That contribution tipped the fund over $10 billion and bought Australia some goodwill.
But while this drew some attention, Australia has generated other press and diplomatic chatter from Abbott's contrarian commentary, from describing coal as "good for humanity" and wind farms as "visually awful". This week's passage of legislation to cut the national renewable energy target was also noticed.
Morgan says Australia is often grouped with Japan and Canada as troubling players ahead of Paris because of their continued focus on coal and high-carbon technologies.
This group – along with Russia – was also identified by the African Progress Panel, headed by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, which in a recent report called Australia a climate "free-rider".
Henry says amid the questions in Bonn, China and other major developing countries appear focused on Australia's 2020 target.
In particular they wanted to know why Australia is not seriously considering the more ambitious, conditional targets of cuts of up to 25 per cent it had previously promised. Henry says China will know that Australia's Climate Change Authority has advised that the conditions for substantially lifting Australia's 2020 goal have been met.
But other observers said this could also just be pre-Paris posturing by China, hoping to deflect attention elsewhere.
The Abbott government says its efforts are focused on determining a post-2020 target. It is understood Bishop and Environment Minister Greg Hunt are pushing Abbott to embrace what Hunt this week said will be a "significant" target.
A brief for cabinet has been written, but with an X where the number will go. Bishop, Hunt and Abbott will soon have a phone hook-up to discuss where Australia will land.
The current favoured target is a cut of between 24 and 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. That is about where Canada has landed, but falls short of the US, which is promising 26 to 28 per cent by 2025 – five years earlier.
There is a belief within some in government that the favoured target would be accepted by world governments. Others are sceptical.
The Climate Institute says it would not be consistent with Australia's role in limiting warming to 2 degrees – the goal backed by the UN, the scientific community and, notionally at least, Canberra.
Ian Fry says setting the target at 2030 is problematic as it would lock in low ambition too far into the future. Along with other small island states, Tuvalu wants targets for 2025 that can be built on as science dictates.
Despite its scarred international reputation on climate, Australia is largely not seen as a disruptive player in the negotiations. It was mostly viewed as helpful in the Bonn round of talks, and the government has declared it wants to be a constructive player.
But Jennifer Morgan is among those who says the true test lies ahead, with the target. "That is where the rubber will hit the road."