Morrison slaps on Labor leader’s ‘soft’ on China

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Morrison slaps on Labor leader’s ‘soft’ on China

Scott Morrison has tried to capitalise on his opponent being locked away in COVID 19 isolation, taking aim at Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles and accusing him of being soft on China.

With the Labor leader off the campaign trail, the Prime Minister has moved his attention to the ALP's frontbench after spending weeks focusing solely on Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

Labor accuses the Coalition of a massive foreign policy blunder in allowing the agreement to be signed, a controversial security pact between Solomon Islands and China has been heavily featured in the federal election campaign this week.

Ministers of Government have seized on a speech by Mr Marles in China in September 2019, where he said he was very cognisant of the growing role that China was playing in providing development assistance in the Pacific.

Australia needs to welcome any country willing to provide it, and the Pacific needs help.

The Pacific Island countries do. It is not the first time that the speech has been cited in Coalition attacks against Mr Marles.

In February, the Prime Minister quoted from the address in Parliament before his now infamous Manchurian candidate description of the deputy Labor leader made a statement that he was forced to withdraw.

Mr Marles and other senior Labor front-benchers are likely to take a more high profile role in the campaign, while Mr Albanese is in isolation for a week after his positive COVID 19 diagnosis.

The person who would want to be Deputy Prime Minister in a Labor government, Richard Marles, actually was advocating for the Chinese government to do exactly what they are now doing, and it would be absurd for Australia to try and resist that, he told Channel Nine.

I find it outrageous that Labor wouldn't criticise us when their own deputy leader was actually advocating what the Chinese government is trying to do in our region. Marles accused the Prime Minister and Coalition MPs of misinterpreting his remarks.

Pacific nations have their own choices, and it is precisely because they need to be making sure that we earn the right to be the natural partner of choice for countries in the Pacific, he told the ABC.

When we were in government, we were winning the strategic contest with China in the Pacific.

I would never have imagined that the Morrison government could stuff things up so badly, as they did when we saw this security agreement between China and Solomon Islands. Mr Morrison continued to reject suggestions that his government mishandled the situation in the Solomons and left a power vacuum in the South Pacific that China filled.

Australian government MPs and officials complained in private about China paying money to a development fund that is distributed directly to Solomon Islands MPs.

The Prime Minister was asked if he believed Chinese money had flown into the country in a bid to shore up support for the controversial security pact.

He told Channel Seven that we are aware of what China has done in many other countries around the world, and we have a good understanding of how they operate in the Pacific.

When pressed on whether that was confirmation of bribery, he simply repeated his position.

He said that it sounds like they don't play by the same rules.