Opposition leader Peter Dutton will offer bipartisan support to the new Labor government on policies regarding the South Pacific, amid tensions with the Solomon Islands.
Mr Dutton emphasised the importance of the region to Australia.
“I’ve met with the leaders to the extent that we could over the course of COVID, most of it obviously virtually,” the former defence minister told reporters in Canberra on Friday.
“I’ve been friends and met with delegations and spoken with Pacific Island leaders over my time in parliament, and I’m very, very keen to continue that relationship, to build that relationship, to offer bipartisan support.”
“So I’d be very happy to support the government in any way.”
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare presents Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong with a gift, before their meeting in Honiara. Credit: DFAT
Solomon Islands has been critical of Australia’s reaction to the country’s signing of a security agreement with China in April.
The details of the pact are yet to be made public, but a suggests the deal includes provisions for Chinese navy ships to dock in the Solomons and for Chinese police to be deployed to the nation in the event of a riot.
Australia has expressed concern that this could lead to Beijing establishing a military base in Solomon Islands, something former .
The leader of the Pacific nation was insulted by these comments, and while not mentioning Australia by name, said his government was being treated like kindergarten students who needed to be supervised.
In a bid to repair relations, the new Foreign Minister Penny Wong visited Honiara last week and met with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
Senator Wong said she was or an ongoing Chinese military presence in the Solomons.
The foreign minister has toured the Pacific three times, visiting five nations since taking office last month, in a bid to restore relations ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in mid-July.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed he will attend the regional meeting, as has Mr Sogavare, providing the two leaders with a chance to meet face-to-face for the first time.
Ten Pacific nations last month turned down a regional security and trade agreement with China at the meeting of foreign ministers, in Fiji.
China has vowed to amend and keep pursuing a region-wide deal, as it attempts to build influence in the region. Something that will no doubt be on the agenda at the forum meeting.