Labor misstep on Solomons poll: Liberals

·2-min read

The Albanese government's handling of its offer to fund the Solomon Islands election after an internal push to delay the national poll has been branded "a giant misstep".

The Pacific nation's prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, labelled the offer of assistance an "assault on our parliamentary democracy" after Foreign Minister Penny Wong revealed on Tuesday it had been made.

Mr Sogavare has said his nation cannot afford to hold both the Pacific Games in 2023 and the election in the same year.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham says the offer is appropriate, with the former coalition government making the same offer in 2019.

But he said it had been "very poorly handled" by the government.

"Look at this reaction that has occurred from the Solomon Islands government, which is an extraordinary statement," Senator Birmingham told ABC radio.

"There is much now to be answered and by the Albanese government in terms of the way in which this offer was communicated, the discussions that have been had, the conditions or nature of this offer.

"It appears as though they have taken a giant misstep in the relationship."

Foreign Minister Penny Wong defended the government's actions when pressed in the Senate, saying the offer for assistance was respectful of the island nation's sovereignty.

"Support for an election, which is held when the Solomon Islands government and parliament determine when that election will be, is an offer respectful of the sovereignty of Solomon Islands," she said.

"It has been the longstanding practice of governments of both political persuasions to provide support for democratic processes in the Solomon Islands."

She said the government had sought to respond to journalists asking about the assistance.

She dismissed suggestions last week's formal offer came too late after the financial difficulties of holding the election had been publicly known for some time.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was looking forward to hosting his Solomon Islands counterpart next month despite the public outburst.

"We want good relations with our Pacific neighbours," he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"I'm very much looking forward to hosting prime minister Sogavare, I'll be hosting him at The Lodge for dinner in just a few weeks' time in October."

The HMAS Sydney will this week transit through the Solomon Islands and provide maritime surveillance support to the nation's police force, Australia's high commissioner in Honiara confirmed.

Honiara inked a security pact with Beijing in April, raising concerns about China's growing influence in the region.