Solomon Islands pact a massive diplomatic failure of Morrison government

By Chris Johnson

April 21, 2022

China’s head of government Li Keqiang and Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare review an honour guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

EDITORIAL COMMENT

Make no mistake – China’s security pact with the Solomon Islands is a massive foreign policy failure on Australia’s behalf.

And it happened on Scott Morrison’s watch.

There has been a lot of doublespeak about just how much and exactly when the Australian government knew about ‘secret’ negotiations between Beijing and Honiara to lock in a deal giving China a significant presence on our doorstep.

But the very fact that on the eve of the document being signed Morrison only dispatched a junior minister to deal with it shows how little importance the PM gave this concerning development. This is despite claiming he knew about it since August.

It also indicates the government believed it had no hope of changing the outcome. It had given up without trying.

Zed Seselja was on a hiding to nothing and his visit to Honiara last week was tokenistic at best. Doomed from the outset.

Yes, he is Australia’s minister for the Pacific, and yes, Australia had just embarked on a federal election campaign, but this issue deserved so much more than a junior minister’s attention.

Where was foreign minister Marise Payne? Where was defence minister Peter Dutton? Where was Morrison himself?

All campaigning domestically for their own survival. But where were they all on this before the election even? 

And now, just 2000 kilometres from Australian shores, China has a foothold that will no doubt turn into a stronghold. 

We can expect a military presence. This region has just become that bit more insecure.

Morrison’s best defence in response to Labor criticism over this appalling diplomatic failure was to say Anthony Albanese was on China’s side – a pathetic, bully-boy schoolyard slur, because the PM had nowhere else to go on it.

Shadow foreign minister Penny Wong was spot on, however, when she said: “This is the worst foreign policy blunder in the Pacific that Australia has seen since the end of World War II.”


READ MORE:

Australia upset Solomon Islands looks beyond ‘Pacific family’ to meet security needs

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