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Neighbourly gesture: Australia to kick tin for cost of Solomons poll

Australia has formally offered to fund the Solomon Islands election after an internal push to delay the national poll.

Sep 06, 2022, updated Sep 06, 2022
Prime Minister of Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare  (AP)

Prime Minister of Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare (AP)

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the offer reflected Australia’s longstanding commitment to democracy in the Pacific.

Senator Wong said it was up to the Solomon Islands government to decide how they responded to the assistance.

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

Sogavare has said his nation cannot afford to hold both the Pacific Games and the election, with legislation set to be introduced to the parliament to delay the poll.

Senator Wong said the Australian government had made an offer, but wouldn’t be drawn on whether it had yet been accepted.

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

“We’ve previously offered support and we are offering support again.”

The minister said it was “reasonably common” for the government to help support elections in the Pacific, and the issue was a matter for their government to solve.

When asked if there was concern China may step in to quash unrest due to protests over a delay to elections, Senator Wong said Mr Sogavare had consistently stated Australia was the security partner of choice.

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

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

Senator Wong said she welcomed the decision, but wouldn’t comment on the US remaining subject to the ban.

“Solomon Islands has indicated publicly they’re making a decision on a case by case basis. They are a sovereign nation and that’s a matter for them,” she said.

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

Honiara inked a security pact with Beijing in April, amid rising concern about China’s growing influence and aggression in the region.

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