Anthony Albanese WALKS AWAY from cameras and hands over 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 activities in the Pacific
- He refused to answer and instead passed Penny Wong in the 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 backed away from the cameras when asked about China’s activities in the Pacific – instead shadowing Secretary of State Penny Wong.
At a news conference in Adelaide on Monday afternoon, a reporter put his question on the Solomons 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 Secretary Jason Clare – and for not knowing the details of his own NDIS policy.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is pictured at Gilmore, NSW, on Monday
Scott Morrison has accused the Labor leader of using his colleagues as “human shields” because he doesn’t know the details of his policies.
“And if the human shield goes away, well we’ll see what happens,” the Prime Minister warned last week after Mr Albanese failed to give the unemployment rate on the first day of the campaign.
“It’s 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 was. Can you imagine three years of that? From this guy that’s sitting there with everything we’re dealing with,” Mr Morrison told Sky News on Thursday.
Mr Albanese has insisted that it is normal to defer questions to relevant colleagues, noting that Mr Morrison does this all the time in Parliament.
Anthony Albanese pictured in Adelaide on Monday
But Defense Secretary Peter Dutton said Mr Albanese was procrastinating far more than other leaders, including Julia Gillard, John Howard, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.
Mr Albanese was asked about a report in The Australian today that was China looking to build shipyards and shipyards in Solomon Islands that could potentially be used by the military.
A leaked copy of a memorandum of understanding between China and the Solomon Islands revealed a draft agreement that would establish “deep-sea fishing bases” just 2,000km from Queensland.
It comes after the two countries signed a security pact earlier this year that set off alarm bells among western nations.
Senator Wong said while she could not verify reports of the leaked memorandum, it represents a worrying development in the region.
“If true, it shows the seriousness of what happened under Mr. Morrison’s watch,” she said.
“It also shows that the kind of harsh words he’s talking about or trying to use don’t seem to be the way to go or have much impact over red lines.”
Campaigning in Nowra, NSW, Mr Morrison said China has made no secret of its ambitions in the Pacific.
“We are very aware of what is happening in our region and the pressure… the Chinese government is trying to exercise countries across our region,” he told reporters Monday.
The prime minister has been accused of the worst foreign policy failure since World War II after the Pacific nation, just 2,000km from Queensland, announced the pact with Beijing last month
“Like many other Pacific leaders, I am deeply concerned about the Chinese government’s interference and intrusion into these types of deals and what it may mean for peace, stability and security in the Southwest Pacific.”
Mr Morrison had previously stated that China’s construction of a military base in the Solomon Islands would draw a “red line” – without saying what would happen if the line was crossed.
He tried to stress that Australia was still the Pacific nation’s preferred security partner.
“The first call when these things happen in our region, from a member of our Pacific family, is to Australia (and) that remains the case,” he said.
“Australian Federal Police are now staying on the ground in Honiara.”
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja on April 13