Solomon Islands security deal with China is a “money grab” from the Pacific nation, says Liberal MP.
However, Defense Minister Peter Dutton said he wanted Australia to normalize the relationship with China.
Queensland MP Phillip Thompson, who served in Afghanistan as a member of the Australian Defense Force, identified China as Australia’s biggest national security threat.
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While Australia and China should not engage in a bidding war with the Solomon Islands, it was important to acknowledge China’s financial influence in the region, the MP said.
“What we have seen with the (China) security pact in the Solomon Islands, is a theft of money from the Solomon Islands,” Thompson told Sky News on Monday.
“(Australia) has always been there supporting and helping the Pacific family. China arrives with a large bag of cash.”
Both Defense Secretary Peter Dutton and Labor Party defense spokesman Brendan O’Connor have suggested China may have engaged in bribery to secure the deal.
O’Connor said it was clear that China does not follow the same rules as other countries on some occasions.
“It may well be that they have acted inappropriately in terms of convincing the Solomon Islands to enter into such an agreement,” Mr O’Connor told ABC Radio National.
But he added that the Liberal-National coalition had failed to maintain a good relationship with the Solomon Islands.
“(Australia) should have been doing more,” he said.
“The current foreign minister should have visited the Solomon Islands, we believe there should be more engagement and we should not have cut off foreign aid to the region as we have done for the last decade.”
Dutton said he wanted Australia to have a better relationship with China, but reiterated his claim that it was the Chinese government that changed the narrative.
“The Chinese operate by very different rules and they do it here, they do it in Africa, they do it in other parts of the world,” he told the Nine Network.
“We want a normalized relationship with China as quickly as possible, but these acts of aggression that we are seeing right now are not acceptable to our country or to the countries that stand up for what we stand for.”