Solomon Islands attack Scott Morrison over AUKUS deal and Anthony Albanese returns from COVID-19 isolation

Manasseh Sogavare has blasted Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying he only learned about the trilateral deal between Australia, the UK and the US when it hit the headlines.

Anger arose after Mr Morrison expressed frustration with the Solomons over his secrecy in drafting a security pact with China,

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“One would expect that as part of the Pacific family, Solomon Islands and Pacific members would have been consulted to ensure transparency of this AUKUS treaty,” he said.

“I realize that Australia is a sovereign country, which can enter into any treaty they want, transparently or not, which is exactly what they did with AUKUS.”

Scott Morrison accused Mr Sogavare of changing his rhetoric after the Solomon Islands confirmed a security deal with China.

“I spoke to Prime Minister Sogavare the day after the [AUKUS] announcement … and no questions were raised at that time in that discussion,” Mr Morrison told reporters at a press conference in Bell Bay, Tasmania on Friday afternoon.

“But obviously over time and the building of new relationships there have obviously been other influences in the perspective that the prime minister of the Solomon Islands has taken,” Mr Morrison said.

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Anthony Albanese returns from COVID-19 isolation

Labor leader Anthony Albanese was released from seven-day isolation on Friday after testing positive for COVID-19 last week.

The Leader of the Opposition did not face the media at a Labor press conference on Friday morning, opting instead to speak with the morning breakfast programmes.

Mr Albanese has also yet to respond to requests for the next two leaders’ debates after Mr Morrison agreed to face his opponent on Channels 7 and 9 next week.

When asked why the Leader of the Opposition was reluctant to face Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a leaders’ debate next week, Mr Chalmers said he did not have access to Anthony’s diary Albanian.

“Anthony Albanese is not shy about debating the Prime Minister and the last time they had a debate Albo cleaned it up,” Mr Chalmers told reporters in Sydney.

Instead, Mr Albanese gave the green light to a youth-focused debate, according to The Daily Aus news outlet.

“@AlboMP’s office has confirmed that it will participate in a youth-focused leaders’ debate with The Daily Aus,” the youth-focused news service posted on Twitter.

Labor MP tests positive for COVID-19

On the day the Labor Party leader emerged from COVID-19 lockdown, the party deputy was struck down with the virus.

Richard Marles was forced to miss Labour’s campaign launch this weekend after testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday.

“I will self-isolate at home and follow the advice,” Mr Marles said on Twitter.

“I’ll be back on the track in no time, fighting for a better future with Anthony Albanese.”

The cost of living remains on the agenda

Scott Morrison acknowledged that prices were rising for everyday items, but continued to point out that this was due to external factors

The prime minister said the rising levels of inflation and the pressure on household budgets were due to factors that were foreign and beyond the government’s control.

“External influences on the economy are going to continue for some time, particularly as we see the disruption of war in Europe and the disruption that comes from the pandemic,” he told reporters in Tasmania on Friday.

“You can’t necessarily change the price of a lettuce, but what you can do is cut the gas tax in half, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

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Australia’s inflation rate rose to 5.1%, the highest level in two decades, sparking speculation that the Reserve Bank will raise interest rates for the first time in 12 years when of its next meeting on Tuesday.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said the coalition was ignoring cost of living pressures.

“[The government] wants to talk about international comparisons, Australians don’t give a damn about inflation in the United States,” Dr Chalmers told reporters in Reid’s constituency in Sydney.

“Australians know what really matters here is that it’s getting harder and harder for them to keep up, and almost impossible to get ahead.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has defended the government’s handling of the economy, but denied that he was seeking to suggest the Reserve Bank put a hold on interest rate hikes until key wage figures are in. released later in May.

“I’m not saying that I will in any way prejudge a decision by an independent board, namely the Reserve Bank,” he told ABC Radio.

“It’s a decision for them, or for them not to make it at their next meeting.”

The treasurer said there was no silver bullet for many problems facing Australia’s economy, such as labor shortages, but the country’s finances are doing well.

Dr Chalmers promised Labor would bring electricity prices down by 2025 if elected.

With Akash Arora, Rayane Tamer.

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