Australia must ‘change the way it talks’ to Pacific Islands

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Melanesian News Network Editor Dorothy Wickham says Australia must start “changing the way it talks” to the Pacific Islands.

It comes as Chinese ships and aircraft will arrive in the Solomon Islands within four weeks, following the signing of a security pact between the two nations.

“Australia must change its narrative in the way it addresses, not only the Solomon Islands, but the Pacific in general,” Wickham told Sky News Australia.

She said Australia must take into consideration the needs of the Pacific, pointing to the important issue of climate change in the region.

“Australia must now relook its strategy in the Pacific and the Solomons…and also start changing the way it talks to us,” she told Sky News Australia.

Meanwhile, China’s military could arrive at Australia’s doorstep sooner than expected, with Chinese ships and aircrafts expected to touch down at the Solomon Islands in just weeks, it has been reported.

The SMH has reported security experts have warned authorities to expect the fleets to arrive within the month, as the global superpower looks to capitalise on the caretaker period in Australian politics – which runs from the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly until the election result is clear – and match the rapid development of bases in the South China sea.

A draft of the agreement leaked online last month, allowing China to send police and military personnel to the Solomon Islands “to assist in maintaining social order”, while also opening the door for Chinese warships to stop in port there for “logistical replenishment”

China’s Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday that the deal had officially been signed “the other day”

Defence analyst Malcolm Davis said if Chinese naval forces are based in the Solomon Islands, Australia will have to respond with a “fundamental change” in its military operations.

It would involve switching the focus from the traditional “sea-air gap” to the north and north-west of Australia, Dr Davis, of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said.

“We now have to think more about defending the east coast … there will likely be more focus on better surveillance by naval, space and air assets to monitor Chinese activities,” he said.

As the election campaign heats up, Labor leader Anthony Albanese has accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of failure on national security, a major issue that the Coalition believes it has great support among voters.

During last night’s Leader’s Debate, Morrison refuted the suggestion it was a policy failure, saying Australia had done its bit.

“This is a very serious issue and one that we’ve been conscious of for a very long time,” he said.

“That’s why we’ve increased our Pacific step-up funding to $1.8 billion (US$1.3 billion) a year to be supporting our Pacific family.”

Albanese said the government’s move was “not so much a Pacific step-up” but “a Pacific stuff-up”.

“The truth is that we all know that China has changed. China has changed. It’s more aggressive. It’s more active in the region, and we need to understand that and respond to it,” he said.

SOURCE: SKY NEWS/9 NEWS/PACNEWS