PM’s next big move as Joyce lashes Keneally
SCOTT Morrison will spend big on the Solomon Islands across the next decade, with the Prime Minister set to unveil a $250 million grants program for the pacific country
Mr Morrison's visit - the first by an Australian leader to the island nation since 2008 - comes as key regional powers meet in Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue.
China's growing role in the Pacific through funding infrastructure and boosting defence links was a hot topic in Singapore, with Beijing choosing to send its highest-profile defence delegation ever to participate in the forum, led by Defence Minister Wei Fenghe.
It comes as Labor leader Anthony Albanese faces criticism over his frontbench, with the Coalition attacking new Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally for her previous opposition to boat turnbacks.
The grants program will provide Solomon Islanders an easier path to get work in Australia, and support key national and economic infrastructure while complementing the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific.
It is understood the program will allow the Solomons government to quickly finance smaller, urgently-required infrastructure that it would be unwilling to borrow in order to fund.
Australia will also support the building of a new complex to hold the prime minister's office and the foreign affairs and trade ministries in Honiara.
As well, $2.7 million will be provided over three years to help islanders considering work opportunities in Australia cover their upfront costs such as passports.
A sports funding package will boost the participation of women and girls in rugby and support elite-level athletes prepare for international events. Climate change is expected to feature in talks with Solomons officials.
Having been greeted at the Honiara airport by Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Sunday, Mr Morrison and wife Jenny attended a barbecue at the Australian high commissioner's residence.
"In the Pacific, stepping up is all about showing up," Mr Morrison said.
"That's why I am pleased that my first official visit after the election is to our own neighbourhood, where we can always make the most difference."
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds told the Shangri-La Dialogue the Indo-Pacific region was becoming more prosperous "but it is also becoming more complex and contested".
"We are in the midst of an effort to take our relationship with Pacific neighbours to a new level," she said.
"Australia wants to do our bit to ensure the Pacific region is resilient and it is stable.
NO RESOLVE TO MAKE HARD DECISIONS: JOYCE ATTACKS KENEALLY
Barnaby Joyce ripped into Senator Kristina Keneally this morning after Anthony Albanese appointed her as Home Affairs spokeswoman.
Mr Joyce criticised Ms Keneally after she backflipped on her previous opposition to turning back boats carrying asylum seekers.
"Kristina Keneally has clearly said she did not believe in our border protection policy, the boat turn backs, or the mechanisms that we use to allow migrants coming to the nation," Mr Joyce told Sunrise.
"This is a odds with people that have had concerns with the Labor Party, that she won't have the resolve to make hard decisions."
Ms Keneally defended her appointment, telling ABC Radio she had done some "honest and open reflection".
"The conclusion I've come to … is simply this: offshore processing, boat turnbacks where safe to do so and regional resettlement are important and necessary tools to keep our borders secure, to keep our country safe and to ensure we are treating people humanely," Ms Keneally said.
She said the Labor would not review it's boat turnback or offshore processing stance despite Anthony Albanese's pledge to review all policies following the party's spectacular election loss.
"Let's be fundamentally clear that Labor stands with the government when it comes to keeping our borders secure," she said.
"Every time Peter Dutton says otherwise, he is simply lying."