Editorial: Message to Australia – The colonial days are over

sogavare solomon islands china
PM Sogavare and Chinese ambassador Li Ming. Picture: Govt Communications Unit

Some Australian politicians, journalists and commentators believe that they are superior to the peoples of the Pacific region. You can read it in the condescending way they talk and write. There is too often a complete lack of respect and regard for Pacific sovereignty, but nothing exposes this elitism more than comments by Australia’s opposition Labor Party about the recent security pact between the Solomon Islands and China.

Make no mistake. The Pacific Advocate believes this pact is bad for the region. It exposes us to future military conflict and it is a slap in the face to those nations – including Australia – that have supported the Solomon Islands over many years.

Prime Minister Sogavare’s government has a checkered past. Accusations of bribes and corruption connected with China have been loud, and as this publication has reported, Chinese companies have been prioritised over local business owners to complete significant infrastructure work, and have done a shoddy job.

Australia and Pacific neighbours have poured finances and resources into the country to help deal with problems its own government created or didn’t deal with effectively, most recently through the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which the Sogavare Government often treated with contempt.

Yet despite this, neither Australia or any other nation can dictate to the Solomon Islands what it can or cannot do. When Australia’s Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and his party’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Senator Penny Wong blame Australia’s current government led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison (calling it a foreign policy failure) for a sovereign decision made by the Solomons, it reeks of colonialism, and the Pacific is very sensitive to this.

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The message the Labor party is sending to the Pacific is that Australia should be controlling governments across the Pacific, and if regional nations don’t do what Australia demands, it’s a failure. There is no other way to read this. This is a message that does not sit well in this region.

The Morrison Government has by all accounts been a good friend of the Pacific. Mr Morrison made a mistake by not attending the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru just after he was elected. It sent the wrong message. Yet since that time Australia has dealt well with our region and showed respectful and strong leadership, notwithstanding the criticism from regional leaders about Australia’s lack of commitment to climate change.

The comments from Mr Albanese and his senior colleagues are as offensive as they are ignorant. Australia can – and did – use diplomatic means to try and convince the Solomons to change course. The US is doing the same and even New Zealand’s leader – who has herself been accused of cosying up to China for economic reasons – has urged Mr Sogavare to scrap the deal.

Yet in the end, the Government of the Solomon Islands is answerable to its people. The opposition politicians in that country will have the opportunity to state their case at the next election and the people of the Solomons will be the ones to decide the nation’s future – not Australia.

If the Australian Labor Party truly believes that it controls other nations because they are smaller, less resourced and less financial, this is the definition of bullying and it will find it tough going in this region should it be elected Australia’s next government.

  1. Stewart Williams 5 months ago

    It’s geopolitically naive to think Solomons or any Pacific island country can militarily invite China into the region and that Australia, New Zealand, the US and other Western powers will not react. China will not make the Pacific richer and free but will bind Pacific island nations in crippling debts traps and levels of coercion they will find difficult to respond to. Has the Pacific forgotten China’s behaviour at the Nauru PIF leaders meeting or the Chinese forcing their way into PNG parliament? Has Australia, New Zealand or the US behaved in such a way?

  2. Isireli Pazabeto 5 months ago

    The truth is that “the people of the Solomons will be the ones to decide the nation’s future – not Australia.” Solomon Islands Opposition have been making all sorts of allegations of corruption without taking anyone of them to court. You what is a slap on the face of Pacific farmers was as Solomon Islands growing kava farmers is the announcement that Australia will be opening the crop for farming and stop declaring it as drug. That is a slap because you will be taking away their market and Solomon Islanders see kava farming as their future. Why not concentrate on other crops. Between every nation is sovereign and makes their own decision and must be respected.

  3. Lasaka Aipitus 5 months ago

    Pacific Islands countries sovereign integrity must be respected by well developed countries. The security Deal between China and Solomon Islands needs to be respected. Solomon Islands is a sovereign state and it’s tertorial integrity must be respected. Australia being developed power in the Pacific doesn’t give it’s power to control a sovereign state of its bilateral and multilateral arrangements so long as it’s foreign policy aligned to achieve its countries visions interms of security, etc.

    For so long Australia’s foreign policy has not been friendly to Pacific islands countries including Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea as a case.

    These countries need friendly countries for best and better relationship. It’s not about getting into war, conflict, cold and hot wars, we Pacific islands countries needs better developments.

    Australia needs to see our needs and align it’s foreign policy. It’s hard culture and making our Pacific islands countries to look further north and China is most preferred country whether USA, Australia like it or not.

    God bless the government of Solomon Islands.

  4. John C Fairfax 5 months ago

    There is another dimension to China seeking a base in Solomon Islands, a distant waters fishing base worth billions and needed to help feed and nourish nearly 1.5 billion Chinese people daily.
    Search: China fishing fleet.

  5. John Malaeolevavau Peterson 3 months ago

    The Australian PM’s comments while in opposition may have offended some but there is also merit. I don’t disagree with your assessment of those views as condescending and should be called out. However, the more important issues including our security, fishing zone security and economies rely on our stronger neighbours like Australia, in the long term. The slashing of Aid funds to the Pacific nations over the years by the Morrison government may have played a part in Solomon’s decision to look to China. Personally, all our Pacific family of nations need to move away from this evil of dependence on other nations for handouts and mass produce our own products from our lands and sea. Just looking at the realities a pandemic like Covid19 impacted the world and our reliance on those foreign support when we have the capacity to self sustain and survive comfortably for years….and continue living in Paradise…lol…Alofa atu from Samoa and congratulations on reaching your first birthday Pacific Advocate…Malo lava le galue ma le onosa’i.

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