Scott Morrison must guarantee a massive Belt and Road Initiative project on our doorstep does not threaten Australia’s security interests or fisheries.
The Chinese Government has announced a deal with Papua New Guinea worth more than $200 million to build a “comprehensive multi-functional fishery industrial park” on the island of Daru.
Daru is located a few kilometres from Australia’s maritime border and less than 200km from the Australian mainland.
Growing concerns among security experts and Torres Strait and Far North Queensland communities have not been addressed by the Morrison Government.
The waters around Daru on the PNG side of the border are depleted, leaving Australian fishers worried fish stock they rely on will be taken – and leading security experts to question whether the “multi-functional” facility will have other uses.
The Federal Government is responsible for border security and foreign relations – and both Australian Border Force and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have a presence on nearby Thursday Island.
“How did the Morrison Government not see this coming?” asked Shadow Foreign Minister, Penny Wong.
“Scott Morrison talks a lot about protecting our sovereignty, but this episode raises serious questions about whether he’s actually delivering what he says.”
“Someone in his Government has clearly dropped the ball here.”
“The Morrison Government has diminished Australia’s standing in the Pacific and undermined our interests in a stable, secure and prosperous region – leaving a vacuum for others to fill,” Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy said.
“Far North Queensland and Torres Strait fishers deserve clear answers from the Morrison Government about how it will impact them,” Queensland Senator Nita Green said.
“In addition to the security concerns, this is a serious threat to the livelihoods of local people.”
Senator Green said “it’s like the Morrison Government is just looking the other way. They have ignored concerns raised by local authorities.”
The Australian Border Force’s presence in the Torres Strait relies on an ageing fleet of Dash 8 aircraft and a few ABF vessels at sea - and Scott Morrison has failed to deliver on Peter Dutton’s 2018 promise of new drones to work alongside a network of undersea sensors to protect Australia’s shores.
Addressing this issue should be the first item on the to-do-list for new Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja.