Price was allegedly introduced to former Kiribati president Anote Tong in a Canberra restaurant on Tuesday by Labor Senator Patrick Dodson.
In a letter sent on Wednesday to the Environment Minister, Senator Dodson described how after making the introduction, Price said to Tong that that she had her chequebook at the ready to give him some money “for the Pacific”.
“For the Pacific it’s always about the cash,” she commented.
“I have my chequebook here.
“How much do you want?”
Tong is said to have rolled his eyes and told his friends he was not in Canberra for a cheque.
The incident has occurred following a wave of controversy surrounding the publication of Senator Fierravanti-Wells opinion piece on China’s practice of “debt-trapping” in the Pacific.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells, the daughter of Italian immigrants and perhaps the Liberal Party’s most vocal spokesperson for conservative multicultural views, had her opinion piece published in The Australian in early October.
In the article, she accused China of deliberately trapping small Pacific nations in debt by lending them money for major infrastructure.
Fierravanti-Wells described the practice of “debt-trapping” as “less confrontational” than the violence that came to the Pacific region during World War II but “just as insidious”.
The Chinese embassy in Canberra lashed back, saying “Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, in her article published in The Australian, once again made unwarranted invective and blatant slander against China on its economic co-operation with the Pacific Island Countries”.
“The ridiculous and absurd allegation, filled with cold-war mentality, reflected the senator’s prejudice, arrogance and ignorance,” the Chinese embassy spokesman said.
It’s a phrase that may well be applicable to the current situation involving Price.
In January, Senator Fierravanti-Wells also claimed that China was building “roads that go nowhere” and “useless buildings” in the Pacific, provoking another controversy.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells resigned from her position on the frontbench as Minister for International Development and the Pacific, amidst the Liberal leadership crisis.
Since then, the position has been downgraded to an assistant ministerial role under the Morrison government.
But Australia’s relationship with its Pacific neighbours remains of high political concern for the government, with many criticising the Prime Minister’s decision to downgrade the ministerial role.