A senior Australian minister has suggested that China had deliberately announced its security pact with the Solomon Islands during an election campaign to undermine her government’s chances of reelection.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews’ accusation is consistent with her conservative Liberal Party’s argument that Beijing wants the centre-left Labour Party to win the May 21 election because Labour lawmakers were less likely to stand up to Chinese economic coercion.
Labour has described the government’s inability to prevent the deal announced by the Chinese and Solomons governments last week as Australia’s biggest foreign policy failure in the Pacific since World War II.
Andrews — who is responsible for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the nation’s main domestic spy agency, and has access to classified secrets from other intelligence agencies — said Australians should be “taking notice of and paying some attention to” the timing of the Solomons’ announcements.
“Beijing is clearly very aware that we’re in a federal election campaign here at the moment. Why now? Why, right in the middle of a federal election campaign is all this coming to light?” Andrews told Brisbane Radio 4BC on Wednesday.
“We talk about political interference and that has many forms,” Andrews added.