Prime Minister Scott Morrison is conducting a media blitz this morning, with five television and radio interviews booked in across a 55-minute period.
The PM’s first appearance was on Nine’s Today show. Co-host Karl Stefanovic quizzed Morrison about Australia’s ongoing relationship with other countries in the Indo-Pacific.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare recently gave a parliamentary speech in which he defended his country’s security pact with China, going as far as to say his nation has been “threatened with invasion” by countries opposing that deal.
As David Crowe has written, 72 per cent of Australian voters are concerned about the Solomon Islands security deal.
Here is the relevant exchange between Stefanovic and the PM (it has been edited for length and clarity).
Stefanovic: You have had a lot to say about our relationship with the Solomon Islands. Their PM is filthy saying you and others are effectively threatening his country with invasion. How do you respond?
Morrison: Well, of course, that’s not the case. We’re the single largest provider of development assistance to the Solomon Islands. We have the Australian Federal Police there. They were there within 12 hours when they called and needed our support to deal with some serious unrest there in Solomon Islands in December of last year. Our Defence Forces went there out of Townsville, restored the situation. We continue to be there and supporting the Solomon Islands, and we will always do that. They’re family and that’s how we see our relationship with all of those Pacific islands
Stefanovic: If he’s family I would hate to see an enemy … are you going to ring him?
Morrison: I will continue to work constructively with the Solomon Islands government as we always have.
Stefanovic: What does that mean, PM?
Morrison: It means that we deal with these things diplomatically. We deal with it professionally, calmly, rationally, dealing with the many challenges that are in the Pacific. That’s what we do every single day. That’s how sensible, professional adult governments respond to challenges like this.
Stefanovic: So you’re saying he’s not approaching it in an adult way?
Morrison: I’m not saying that. [It’s] his sovereign country. He’s free to express whatever he likes. We deal with these stresses and pressures every single day. These things are not new.