Morrison: Australia still Solomon Islands’ first option despite ‘secret’ security deal with China

Scott Morrison says the government will take a “calm and composed” approach to Solomon Islands if re-elected, after its Prime Minister launched a tirade in parliament about Australia’s response to its new security pact with China.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Mannasseh Sogavare on Tuesday suggested Australia and its allies were deliberately trying to undermine his government, criticised the Western response to Russia’s invasion and praised China’s treatment of Christians.
He also seemed to suggest that an invasion of Solomon Islands was being considered by Australia, something no federal government figure has publicly raised the prospect of.
This morning, Mr Morrison denied the prospect, saying Australia had sent police officers during last year’s unrest at the request of Mr Sogavare.
“Of course we haven’t threatened [to invade],” he said. “We are their primary security partner. We are their first call when they face these sorts of challenges.”
Solomon Islands and China signed a security pact last month, which Bejing said would involve China cooperating with Honiara on maintaining social order, combating natural disasters and safeguarding national security.
Mr Morrison said Solomon Islands was part of Australia’s Pacific family and the government was concerned for it.
“What we need to be conscious of is [that] we need to be calm and composed when we deal with these issues that arise,” he said.
“Prime Minister Sogavare has entered into a secret arrangement with the Chinese government. He has done that with a number of his cabinet ministers.
“That didn’t come as a surprise to our government and now we just work responsibly with our partners to manage that situation, to first protect the security interests of Australia but also of the Solomon Islands.”
Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said she was surprised that Prime Minister Scott Morrison had not spoken to the leader of Solomon Islands since he signed the controversial security deal with China.
“Quite a lot of the way in which Prime Minister Morrison has dealt with this issue has surprised me. I think Australians have been surprised,” she said.
“We know that we were warned about this, Australia was warned about this in August last year,” she said.
Ms Wong said she looked forward to speaking to Mr Sogovare if Labor were to win the upcoming federal election.
“Prime Minister Sogavare has his views. Australians have ours and, if I get the opportunity to serve as your foreign minister, I look forward to the opportunity to discuss those views with the [Solomon Islands] Prime Minister,” she said.

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