Australia’s great offer to the Solomon Islands

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Australia has formally offered to fund the Solomon Islands election after internal pressure to postpone the national poll.

Foreign Secretary Penny Wong said the offer reflects Australia’s long-standing commitment to democracy in the Pacific.

Senator Wong said it is up to the government of the Solomon Islands to decide how to respond to the aid.

She denied that the offer was in response to attempts by Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to postpone the poll until 2024, after the Pacific Games in November.

Mr Sogavare has said his country cannot afford to host both the Pacific Games and the election as legislation will be put before parliament to delay the poll.

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Senator Wong said the Australian government had made an offer but would not look into whether it had already been accepted.

“It reflects our longstanding and historic commitment to supporting democracy and democratic processes in the Solomon Islands,” she told TBEN radio on Tuesday.

“We have provided support before and we are now providing support again.”

The minister said it was “fairly common” for the government to help support elections in the Pacific, and the issue was an issue for their government to resolve.

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Asked if there were concerns that China would intervene to quash the unrest caused by protests over an election postponement, Senator Wong said Mr Sogavare had consistently stated that Australia was the preferred security partner.

“Australia maintains the position we have had for some time that safety is the responsibility of the Pacific family of which we are a part,” she said.

It follows confirmation that warships from Australia and New Zealand will be exempt from a temporary ban on foreign naval vessels entering his country’s ports.

Senator Wong said she welcomed the decision but declined to comment on the fact that the US remains subject to the ban.

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“The Solomon Islands have publicly stated that they will make a decision on a case-by-case basis. They are a sovereign nation and that is their business,” she said.

“The US has a long history of presence in the Pacific dating back to World War II and the US is part of the region’s history, and of the region’s present and future.”

Honiara signed a security pact with Beijing in April amid growing concerns about China’s growing influence and aggression in the region.

– MONKEY