Australia’s prime minister was overheard joking with the country’s immigration minister about the plight that Pacific nations are facing due to rising sea levels from climate change.
While speaking to the prime minister, who has just returned from talks about climate change with Pacific Island leaders in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Dutton remarked that the day’s meeting on Syrian refugees was running on “Cape York Time”, according to ABC News.
The social services minister, Scott Morrison, who was also in attendance, then pointed out that there was a boom mic – an extendable microphone used to capture sound at a distance – above the ministers.
When pressed, Dutton insisted “I don’t have anything to add to it”.
But not everyone was laughing, with some quick to point out the severity of the actual issue behind Dutton’s joke.
Pacific Island nations are concerned about rising seas levels and have pleaded with Australia to help them.
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has been caught on tape joking with Prime Minister Tony Abott ahead of a meeting in Canberra on Friday.
“Probably one of the most frustrating events of the past year for Pacific islanders is Australia’s odd behaviour when it comes to climate change”, he said.
At a later press conference, Mr Dutton refused to answer questions about the incident, saying: “I had a private conversation with the Prime Minister. We find your government’s inaction deeply disturbing and your colleague’s disregard for our people deeply offensive”, Papua New Guinea coordinator Arianne Kassman wrote.
It is understood the faux pas has offended many Pacific island delegations at the forum.
“The final Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Declaration on Climate Change Action, agreed between all Forum members including New Zealand and Australia, while a step in the right direction has failed to fully represent these categorical calls to action from Pacific Island countries and territories”, Roughton said. “It’s not the best outcome that we would have liked”, Kiribati President Anote Tong said.
De Brum has consistently said that even if the upcoming Paris climate talks keep the atmosphere within the (increasingly unlikely) target of a 2C temperature rise on pre-industrial levels, that his islands may become uninhabitable.