Federal immigration minister Peter Dutton has been caught on microphone joking about the threat of sea-level rise to Pacific Island nations, the ABC reports.
Referring to a meeting on Syrian refugees that was delayed, Dutton quipped that it was running on “Cape York time”, then adding that “time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door”.
The unfortunate comment – which was recorded be a big, overhead boom mike – was made as an aside to minister for social services Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who had just returned from a flying visit to the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby on Thursday, at which climate change was a key topic.
It is made all the more unfortunate by the fact that Abbott had, at that meeting, rejected the pleas of low-lying Pacific island nations for a stronger stance on emissions and temperature rises.
Abbott and New Zealand prime minister John Key both refused to go further than their existing commitments on global warming, leaving Pacific island leaders with the impression they were putting economic growth ahead of the survival of neighbouring island communities.
“It is disappointing,” said Kiribati president Anote Tong, who last month sent an open letter to all heads of state calling for a global moratorium on new coal mine development.
According to the ABC, Tong had campaigned especially hard for Australia to further reduce emissions, support a tighter cap on global temperature rises and consider a moratorium on new coal mines.
“I would really have loved to go back and say yes, we had support, solid support from all of the Pacific neighbours including our developed neighbours. How does it feel? I’ve learned to live with the disappointments.”