A previous high commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Trevor Sofield, has criticised the prime minister’s approach to the Pacific nation after attempting to talk to him in Tasmania.
In a video posted to Twitter by SBS’s Shuba Krishnan, Sofield can be seen trying to make his way to Scott Morrison, with security deterring him.
#WATCH: One of the first High Commissioners to the Solomon Islands Trevor Sofield tried to approach the PM at an event in Northern Tasmania. The PM’s security detail prevented him from talking to Scott Morrison. @SBSNews #ausvotes pic.twitter.com/lq4U3hUDDx
— Shuba Krishnan (@ShubaSKrishnan) May 12, 2022
In the video, Sofield said: “When I was in foreign affairs I was one of the initiators of our policy of strategic denial. We have lost the plot in the South Pacific. And, given that I have a degree of experience, I think I know what I’m talking about.”
His term as high commissioner lasted from 1982 to 1985.
Sofield continued: “Because of the way they have totally mishandled our strategic interest, I’m no longer voting for the Liberal Party.”
Morrison did not speak to Sofield, with videos showing the prime minister going into his car as Sofield is kept away by security.
Australia’s diplomatic relationship with The Solomon Islands has been fraught of late, as the nation signed a security pact with China. Scott Morrison revealed he had not spoken to its prime minister Mannasseh Sogavare, as reported in The Mandarin.
Speaking at a media conference on Friday, the prime minister said he defers to his security team when he is told to he needs to leave when a journalist asked him why he did not speak to the former high commissioner.
Elaborating on Australia’s diplomatic relationships in the Pacific, Morrison mentioned his first meeting with Fiji’s prime minister Frank Bainimarama.
“I said to Frank, ‘Frank, I know that Australia has not always done it the right way in the Pacific. You know, in the past, Australia, has acted like a bit of a colonial overlord and is stomped around. And I don’t think it’s treated the Pacific peoples and families with respect.’
“And he agreed with me, and he said that was one of the key issues that have been causing angst amongst Pacific leaders,” the prime minister said.
Morrison concluded that he would continue to work with Pacific leaders as ‘family’ to address national security issues.