Minister reverses defense recommendation not to publicize patrol boat issue

The Labor government has decided to publicly criticize the problem of an Australian-built patrol boat deployed to the Pacific, despite warnings from officials.

The Pentagon has warned Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marls not to make the issue public, according to a document obtained by The Guardian.

“Aggressive media coverage of the current Guardian-class patrol boat exhaust gas cracking issue is likely to harm our relationship with Pacific Partners and is not recommended by the Department of Defense. Media attention is undesirable for Pacific Partners. It could lead to political and media pressure,” the document read.

“Media attention could create unwanted political and media pressure on Pacific Partners, which could be exploited by criminal networks and malicious actors.”

The Pacific islands are centers of drug trafficking.

Marls gave the go ahead

However, despite advice, Defense Minister Marrez gave the green light to issue a statement on the matter.

On July 1, 2022, the Pentagon revealed several issues with Australian-built patrol vessels that had been spotted over the past 16 months.

In February 2022, cracks were discovered in the coupling between the engine and gearbox.

In May, problems were discovered in the ward’s ventilation system and exhaust system, which was pumping carbon monoxide into certain compartments.

Epoch Times photo
Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Richard Marles speaks during a press conference at the 32nd Australian-American Ministerial Meeting (AUSMIN) at the Department of State in Washington, DC, December 6, 2022. (Image by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty)

Defense Industry Minister Pat Conroy said at the time that the government was committed to meeting all challenges to ensure the boats were safe and operational.

“We understand how important these vessels are to our partners in Australia and the Pacific. We are detecting and deterring fishing,” he said.

The Australian government has donated 15 boats to Pacific island governments as part of its strategy of engagement in the race against the Communist Party of China (CCP).

Pushback Efforts Flagging in Solomon Islands

But efforts to win the Solomon Islands appear to have stalled after the most populous state of Malaita promised to end the Auki Communique, a bulwark against Beijing’s influence.

New Malaita Prime Minister Martin Fini is considering removing the document after his government usurped power from the former prime minister.

Epoch Times photo
An HMAS Armidale-class patrol boat patrols the coast of Honiara, Solomon Islands, December 4, 2021. (CPL Brodie Cross/ADF)

“Yes, the removal of the Auki Communiqué is on the agenda. He told the government-run newspaper Solomon Star. in an interview February 17th.

“We will shelve it. This shows that Malaita is open to investors from anywhere. The people of Malaita need development and as their representative government, we promote it.”