Election 2022: Labor slams government response to Solomon Islands-China security deal

By Melissa Coade

April 20, 2022

Anthony Albanese
Anthony Albanese arrives to visit the Tritium EV battery charger manufacturing line on Day 9 of the 2022 federal election campaign. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The Opposition party has knocked the Coalition for dropping the foreign policy ball by allowing a security pact between the Solomon Islands and China to go ahead. 

The comments were made in addition to a series of election announcements calling for better job security, higher wages and an overhaul of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Speaking at a press conference in Brisbane on Wednesday, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said a Coalition government would leave more people without and dependent on insecure work. 

Labor has taken issue with the LNP’s proposal to introduce legislation that it says will put people’s wages at risk. The party also wants to know why separate laws were not introduced by the LNP to tackle wage theft and spent the morning discussing whether the Coalition simply wanted to attack unions.  

“We know that the cost of everything is going up, except for people’s wages. This prime minister’s response is another attack on people’s wages. 

“The only way that you want to get rid of the ‘better-off overall’ test is if you don’t want people to be better off overall, it’s pretty simple,” Albansese said of the omnibus bill.

Albanese used the security deal struck between China and the Solomon Islands this week as another example of LNP prime minister Scott Morrison being ‘missing on the big questions’. He said the government had failed to adequately engage with its Pacific neighbour and slammed a decision to send junior minister Zed Seselja to the Solomon Islands ahead of the deal. 

“Only in recent days did the government bother to send a junior person across to the Solomons. [There was] no visit from the foreign minister, no visit from the defence minister, no engagement in a serious way,” he said. 

Alabanese added that if he were in charge, engagement with the Solomon Islands would have occurred as a last-ditch attempt and a Labor government would have heeded the foreign policy warnings about China in the Pacific last August. 

“[Morrison] never does the right planning to get ahead of the issues [sic]. This is a massive foreign policy failure on his watch,” Albanese said of the PM. 

“I would be engaging with the leadership of the Solomons, and I would have done it over a period of time. The problem is those relationships aren’t ones that can be done just when there is a crisis. 

“When the warning was given in August [about this deal], the government didn’t act soon enough,” he said.  

On Tuesday, Labor’s NDIS spokesperson Bill Shorten said if voted to government, his party would restore trust via six key measures, promising to revitalise the agency responsible for the scheme by lifting a staffing cap at the NDIA.

“Labor will [sic] commit to urgently reducing insecure labour-hire arrangements, increasing permanent staff at the agency and improving the culture,” Shorten said in a statement.

“Labor will also review NDIS design, operation and sustainability.”

Part of the six-point plan includes removing the use of external lawyers, reliance on external consultants, and cracking down on criminal activity and fraud. The NDIS should also be more efficient and protected from arbitrary government cuts, with a greater focus on regional accessibility, Shorten said. 

“Labor will make sure all 4.4 million Australians living with disability get the action and support they need by measuring progress on a National Disability Strategy, developing a National Autism Strategy, backing research, and a central coordination point for disability – to ensure they are never again left at the back of the queue in a crisis.

“This policy is the result of thousands of conversations with people with disability, NDIS participants, carers, families, advocates and providers,” Shorten said.


Election 2022: Labor releasing new policies while defending costings of others

About the author
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
The Mandarin Premium

Canberra’s changed

Stay on top for only $5 a week


Get Premium Today