Joint media release:

  • The Hon Michael McCormack MP, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific

Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, has been caught out misleading over the extent of his prior knowledge of Nauru’s decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China.

The Minister had claimed to have been given a heads up by Nauru of the decision.

But in Senate Estimates today, department officials confirmed that whilst the Government was advised by Nauru that a “significant announcement was coming” it was only through other “sources” that the detail of the announcement was uncovered.

It would seem Minister Conroy was wanting to give an impression that he and the Government had relations in Nauru such that he was given prior knowledge. He was wanting to avoid any embarrassment from the fact that he and the Government was not notified in advance of Nauru’s switch.

Minister Conroy told a media conference on the 16th January that Nauru had “…. no conversations with us (Australia) about this particular matter….. other than giving a heads-up that a decision had been made.”

The trickiness in Mr Conroy’s approach does nothing but undermine the credibility of what the Albanese Government says about its engagement with the Pacific. If Mr Conroy can’t be honest about what Pacific nations tell the Albanese Government how can other statements or assurances be trusted?

The Albanese Government, particularly Minister Wong and Minister Conroy talk a big game about their engagement in the Pacific, yet the reality is that the strategic contest continues at pace.

During today’s Foreign Affairs Senate Estimates hearings, we have also learned that a series of agreements between Australia and Pacific Island nations, including Vanuatu and the Tuvalu Falepili Union Treaty, have not yet been ratified.

The Albanese Government needs to spend less time engaging in dishonest spin or grand statements and more time just getting the outcomes that underpin a peaceful, stable and prosperous Pacific.