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Scott Morrison insists the Solomon Islands WANTS to rely on Australia for its security – after nation’s PM was infuriated by a simple Aussie phrase
- Pacific nation Solomon Islands has signed a secret security pact with China
- Analysts say the pact will allow Chinese troops to be stationed there
- Scott Morrison insisted that Australia was still the partner of choice for nation
Analysts say the deal will allow Chinese troops to be stationed there – but the Solomon Islands has denied it wants a Chinese naval base on its territory.
Mr Morrison also responded to Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s criticism of his Government for saying the Solomon Islands is in Australia’s ‘backyard’.
Scott Morrison (pictured eating a pastry on Thursday) has insisted Australia is still the Solomon Islands’ preferred security partner after it signed a secret deal with China
Mr Morrison said he still has not spoken to Mr Sogavare since the deal was announced but is following all the advice of intelligence officials.
He insisted Australia, which has sent AFP officers to help keep peace amid social unrest, is still the preferred security partner.
‘I have had contact with (Mr Sogavare) in the last few months. Australia is the preferred security partner, he’s communicated that to me consistently,’ he said.
Earlier this week Mr Sogavare told his parliament the country was being treated like kindergarten students ‘walking around with Colt 45s in our hands’ who needed to be supervised.
He also said it was ‘offensive’ for Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews to refer to Solomon Islands as being in ‘our backyard’ because the backyard is where rubbish is kept and burnt.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja on April 13
Mr Morrison said Mr Sogavare is free to express his opinion but it would not stop the Australian government having a relationship with the Solomon Islands.
‘We have always been there for the people of the Solomon Islands and we always will be. That doesn’t mean the prime ministers will always agree,’ he told reporters in Parramatta on Thursday.
Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong remains surprised Mr Morrison has not spoken to Mr Sogavare more recently.
‘Quite a lot of the way in which Prime Minister Morrison has dealt with this issue has surprised me. Australians have been surprised,’ she told the ABC.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said a government he led would have a constructive relationship with Pacific nations, citing his party’s policy of people-to-people relationships.
‘This is a complex relationship, but the fact that the prime minister hasn’t picked up the phone to Prime Minister Sogavare says an enormous amount about what is needed in terms of that relationship,’ Mr Albanese told reporters in Sydney.
‘The government has dropped the ball on the Pacific right now and during this period we haven’t even had serious visits from the foreign minister or the defence minister.’
The Prime Minister has been accused of the worst foreign policy failure since World War Two after the Pacific nation just 2,000km from Queensland announced the pact with the Beijing last month