Reg­u­lar ser­vice re­sumes af­ter ScoMo’s bus blitz

The Australian - - THE NATION - CHAR­LIE PEEL

The ScoMo Ex­press bus that ac­com­pa­nied Scott Mor­ri­son this week on his blitz of Queens­land was yes­ter­day on its way back to the de­pot, where it will be stripped of ad­ver­tis­ing de­cals and re­turned to reg­u­lar ser­vice.

Ahead of the fed­eral elec­tion, the Prime Min­is­ter will be hop­ing he left a longer-last­ing im­pres­sion on vot­ers in the bat­tle­ground state.

On the fi­nal day of his trip north, Mr Mor­ri­son yes­ter­day out­lined his govern­ment’s strat­egy to re­tain broader in­flu­ence in the South Pa­cific.

It in­cludes a $2 bil­lion bank to pro­vide is­land na­tions with cheap in­fra­struc­ture loans, greater mil­i­tary and po­lice train­ing part­ner­ships and a bid to build closer cul­tural ties to align is­lan­ders with Aus­tralian cul­tural val­ues and stave off grow­ing Chi­nese in­flu­ence.

Speak­ing to sol­diers at Townsville’s Lavarack bar­racks, Mr Mor­ri­son said he wanted more Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion pro­grams broad­cast into the South Pa­cific and shared sport­ing com­pe­ti­tions.

The mea­sures would be funded “from within the bud­get”, Mr Mor­ri­son said.

“I’ve been speak­ing to Free TV Aus­tralia and the com­mer­cial TV net­works about how we can get more of our Aus­tralian con­tent into the re­gion, our Pa­cific fam­ily switch­ing on to the same sto­ries, news, drama and sports we are watch­ing at home,” he said.

“What bet­ter way to stay in con­nec­tion than through the life­style and ev­ery­day ex­pe­ri­ences we are all lucky enough to en­joy.”

Mr Mor­ri­son said Aus­tralia needed to “step up” when it came to its role in the re­gion.

“Aus­tralia can­not take its in­flu­ence in the south­west Pa­cific for granted.

Sadly, I think that too of­ten we have.

“My govern­ment is re­turn­ing the Pa­cific to where it should be: front and cen­tre,” he said.

The Aus­tralian De­fence Force would es­tab­lish an “en­dur­ing, trav­el­ling Pa­cific mo­bile team” that would train with other forces and re­spond to hu­man­i­tar­ian and dis­as­ter mat­ters.

The strat­egy an­nounce­ment came ahead of the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion leader’s sum­mit in Port Moresby next week.

For lower level pol­i­tics and diplo­macy, Mr Mor­ri­son was the spe­cial guest at Lib­eral Na­tional Party fundrais­ing events in sev­eral re­gional towns.

The ScoMo Ex­press car­ried him through the south­east Queens­land leg, but he ditched it in favour of a plane to get from the Sun­shine Coast to Rockhampton.

The bus met him there and took him down to Glad­stone for “pol­i­tics in the pub” be­fore he flew to Townsville on Wed­nes­day for a sim­i­lar event and to meet De­fence per­son­nel.

AAP

Scott Mor­ri­son in­spects an MRH-90 he­li­copter in Townsville

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