While the conflict drags on in Ukraine, we have our own problems in the South Pacific. Here at home, we need to toughen up our defence capability if we’re going to dissuade the Chinese from invading. But that’s obvious and the government of the day can do something about it. We hope.
Many of us have wondered at the decision to allow Chinese companies to run the ports of Darwin and Newcastle but it seems the Defence Department has no issues with either of these commitments. But I’m glad to see we’re at last grabbing a brain and considering replacing the Port of Darwin for military use.
The Australian reported that “Mr Dutton fuelled speculation on Thursday that the Australian Defence Force and allied militaries could simply bypass the Chinese-owned port, saying the government had made a “massive” commitment to building infrastructure in the NT.”
Very wise, if a little bit belated.
However, there’s lots we can’t do much about to prevent threats around our borders.
Despite the West’s best efforts, governments in places like the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea seem to be easily lured by China’s largesse. Want a port? No worries. We’ll do it for you, provide the labour, do the building. Then, when they can’t pay back the loan, China owns the infrastructure.
That’s bad enough, but this report from the BBC is worse.
“The details of the leaked plans have particularly concerned Australia, which is just 2000km (1,400 miles) south of the Solomon Islands. The papers set out a framework which could allow Beijing to deploy forces to “protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in Solomon Islands”. [source]
In the past, Australian police and troops have acted as peacekeepers in the troubled islands. Not anymore. And you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out China will end up with a military base on our doorstep, and they’ll be making all the decisions.
Naturally, Prime Minister Sogavare poo-poos any suggestion that he will be China’s lap dog. But remember that China assured US President Obama when it took over the islands in the South China Sea that they would not be used for military purposes. See how that turned out.
The Solomon Islands deal will go hand-in-glove with the ‘fishing’ port China wants to build in PNG on Daru Island near the tip of Cape York Peninsula. One has to wonder about their real motive, given it’s not located in one of PNG’s many large fisheries. The locals in the area are concerned about an enormous fish processing plant destroying their way of life. [source] But I doubt that will hold much sway in Port Moresby.
If anyone wants to know how China acts in these circumstances it’s worth watching this video, where China built (as a gift) the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa.
Just as well the Australian Government refused to allow Huawei to tender for the roll-out of the 5G network. With ‘friends’ like those…
Meanwhile, the federal election in Australia is due next month. I note that “Each Way” Albo (Anthony Albanese) has been taken off to deportment class so that he looks a bit more “prime ministerial”. Haircut, snazzy suits, carefully coordinated tie. Me, I’m a bit more interested in his policies and his vision of the future. Both seem a bit threadbare. But one thing you can count on, if Labor gets into power the number of federal public servants will skyrocket. It happens every time and the merest glance at Victoria and Queensland will confirm the impression.
And that rhetorical question in the heading? Too right we should be.