The Albanese government’s handling of its offer to fund the Solomon Islands election after an internal push to delay the national poll has been branded “‘a giant misstep”.
The Pacific nation’s prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, labelled the offer of assistance an “assault on our parliamentary democracy” after Foreign Minister Penny Wong revealed on Tuesday it had been made.
Mr Sogavare has said his nation cannot afford to hold both the Pacific Games in 2023 and the election in the same year.
Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham says the offer is appropriate, with the former coalition government making the same offer in 2019.
But he said it had been “very poorly handled” by the government.
“Look at this reaction that has occurred from the Solomon Islands government, which is an extraordinary statement,” Senator Birmingham told ABC radio.
“There is much now to be answered and by the Albanese government in terms of the way in which this offer was communicated, the discussions that have been had, the conditions or nature of this offer.
“It appears as though they have taken a giant misstep in the relationship.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was “looking forward” to hosting his Solomon Islands counterpart next month despite the public outburst.
“We want good relations with our Pacific neighbours,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
“I’m very much looking forward to hosting prime minister Sogavare, I’ll be hosting him at The Lodge for dinner in just a few weeks’ time in October.”
Honiara inked a security pact with Beijing in April, raising concerns about China’s growing influence in the region.