Anthony Albanese WALKS AWAY from the cameras and hands over to Penny Wong when asked about China – after PM accused him of using ‘human shields’ to dodge tricky questions
- Anthony Albanese was asked to comment on China’s activity in the Pacific
- He declined to answer and instead handed over to Penny Wong in presser
- Scott Morrison accused Mr Albanese of using his colleagues as ‘human shields’
- The Prime Minister said he was ‘very concerned’ about Chinese interference
Anthony Albanese has stepped away from the cameras when asked about China‘s activity in the Pacific – instead deferring to shadow foreign affairs minister Penny Wong.
In a press conference in Adelaide on Monday afternoon a reporter directed his query about the Solomon Islands to ‘both’ Mr Albanese and Senator Wong but the Labor leader simply stepped away from the cameras.
Last week Mr Albanese faced criticism for deferring several questions to shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers and shadow housing minister Jason Clare – and for not knowing the details of his own NDIS policy.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is pictured in the federal seat of Gilmore, NSW on Monday
Scott Morrison has accused the Labor leader of using his colleagues as ‘human shields’ because he’s not across the details of his policies.
‘And when the human shield goes, well, we see what happens,’ the Prime Minister warned last week after Mr Albanese failed to state the unemployment rate on day one of the campaign.
‘This is just the campaign. Didn’t know what the unemployment rate was. Didn’t know what the cash rate was. Didn’t even know what his own NDIS policy. Could you imagine three years of that? Of this guy sitting there, with everything we’re dealing with,’ Mr Morrison told Sky News on Thursday.
Mr Albanese has insisted it’s normal to defer questions to relevant colleagues, pointing out that Mr Morrison does it all the time in Parliament.
Anthony Albanese pictured in Adelaide on Monday
But Defence Minister Peter Dutton said Mr Albanese defers questions far more than other leaders including Julia Gillard, John Howard, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.
Mr Albanese was asked today about a report in The Australian that China was looking to build wharves and shipyards in the Solomon Islands – which could potentially be used by its military.
A leaked copy of a memorandum of understanding between China and the Solomon Islands revealed a draft agreement that would set up ‘deep-sea fishing bases’ just 2,000km from Queensland.
It comes after the two countries signed a security pact earlier this year, which has raised alarm bells among western nations.
Senator Wong said while she could not verify reports of the leaked memorandum, it represented a concerning development in the region.
‘If it’s true, it demonstrates the seriousness of what has occurred on Mr Morrison’s watch,’ she said.
‘It also demonstrates that the sort of tough words he’s talking about, or trying to use, about red lines don’t appear to be the way forward or appear to have much effect.’
Campaigning in Nowra, NSW, Mr Morrison said China has made no secret of its ambitions in the Pacific.
‘We are very aware of what’s happening in our region and of the pressures… the Chinese government is seeking to put on countries right across our region,’ he told reporters on Monday.
The Prime Minister has been accused of the worst foreign policy failure since World War Two after the Pacific nation just 2,000km from Queensland announced the pact with the Beijing last month
‘I am very concerned, as many other Pacific leaders are, about the interference and intrusion of the Chinese government into these types of arrangements and what that can mean for the peace, stability and security of the southwest Pacific.’
Mr Morrison had previously stated that China building a military base in the Solomon islands would be a ‘red line’ – without saying what would happen if the line is crossed.
He sought to emphasise Australia was still the preferred security partner of the Pacific nation.
‘The first call when these things happen in our region, from any of our Pacific family, is to Australia (and) that remains the case,’ he said.
‘The Australian Federal Police remain on the ground in Honiara now.’
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja on April 13