Cringing at Morrison’s Pacific performance

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“Scott Morrison seems to be setting a Donald Trump standard for Australia. Truth and evidence is no longer important,” writes politics columnist MICHAEL MOORE. 

AUSTRALIANS should all be cringing at the behaviour of our Prime Minister at the Pacific Islands Forum. 

Michael Moore.

Scott Morrison’s willingness to undermine our Pacific neighbours in taking strong action against their proposal on climate change is duplicitous and embarrassing.

On the one hand, the Morrison government has argued Australia will easily meet our Paris targets on climate change. On the other hand, at this forum, he is prepared to walk away from the same targets. To do so at the Pacific Islands Forum shows an appalling lack of judgement. 

Why would an Australian leader shove our lack of concern in the face of our near neighbours who are amongst those most vulnerable to climate change?

Ironically, it is also at a time when Australia is seeking to counter the growing influence of China in the Pacific. Just how successful that will be may be seen from the comments of the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, who pointed out “no matter how much money you put on the table, it doesn’t give you the excuse to not do the right thing, that is cutting down your emissions, including not opening your coal mines.”

Malcolm Turnbull provided an insight into the problem in a tweet on the Forum: “It may be political to some, but it’s existential in the Pacific”. 

The reality is that climate change is increasing temperatures, sea levels and the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and cyclones. These are already having a major impact in this region. In fact, the very existence of Tuvalu, and many other small, low-lying Pacific Islands, is in question. That really is “existential”.

It does not help that the Australian junior minister Alex Hawke was sent to do the preparatory work. He is the minister responsible for International Development and the Pacific. However, Hawke has a history of denying the role of humans in climate change.

In November, 2013, in a speech to the Parliament on the Bill to repeal the clean energy legislation, he said: “We accept that carbon emissions have to be reduced”. However, he went on to add: “Voting populations around the world have cottoned on to this climate alarmism”. 

And in another speech: “To say that climate change is human induced is to overblow and overstate our role in the scheme of the universe”

The Communique from the Pacific Forum is a way of ensuring co-ordinated international action to support our vulnerable neighbours. Instead of supporting the inclusion of the Paris Agreement to this document, which aims to keep global warming to below 2°C and requires carbon neutrality (net zero emissions) by 2050, our Prime Minister refused to agree to include the Paris targets.

Scott Morrison seems to be setting a Donald Trump standard for Australia. Truth and evidence is no longer important. Our government is constantly telling us that they will meet their Paris obligations. It is an accounting trick – smoke and mirrors.

If it was not smoke and mirrors – Australia would happily support a strong statement to deliver on the Paris targets. What has been revealed in the Pacific is that the government itself knows that their own rhetoric is just that – rhetoric, “fake news” and lies. This is not the first time. Australia also worked to undermine the Nadi Bay Declaration that urged all nations to uphold their responsibilities as laid out in the Paris Agreement.

The World Health Organization has stated in different forums that climate upheaval translates to rises in vector-borne, food-borne, and water-borne diseases. Climate change places secure access to food, water and shelter under threat. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Pacific.

It is no wonder that Xavier Matsutaro, the national climate change co-ordinator of the Pacific Island of Palau, pointed out the ongoing attempts of Australia to dilute climate action. He added that the impact was to make the relationship with Australia “dysfunctional”.

In the most strident terms Matsutaro compared the relationship with Australia to one of domestic violence, “abused by your spouse but at the same time they feed you and clothe you… you could say it’s a bit of a dysfunctional relationship.”

How much more embarrassing can this get?



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Michael Moore
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He has been a political columnist with "CityNews" since 2006.

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