Another Australian Politician and the realities of climate change

Okay so the Australian Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack reckons Pacific islanders have to become fruit pickers in Australia in order to survive climate change.

Yep problem solved. Why worry about climate change mitigation and adaptation in the region? The Australian Deputy P.M. has got it all figured out.

“I also get a little bit annoyed when we have people in those sorts of countries pointing the finger at Australia and say we should be shutting down all our resources sector so that, you know, they will continue to survive,” he said in an exclusive by The Guardian newspaper.

“They will continue to survive, there’s no question they’ll continue to survive and they’ll continue to survive on large aid assistance from Australia.

“They’ll continue to survive because many of their workers come here and pick our fruit, pick our fruit grown with hard Australian enterprise and endeavour and we welcome them and we always will.

“But the fact is we’re not going to be hijacked into doing something that will shut down an industry that provides tens of thousands of jobs, that provides two-thirds of our energy needs ... and I’m only talking coal, let alone all of our other resources.”

Pacific island nations have got used to that arrogance and insensitivity from Australia’s political leadership in recent years, as the plea for action by the region’s low-lying coral atoll and island communities become more desperate. 

Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton did it in 2015 and then environment minister Melissa Price in 2018. Even Scott Morrison has come under scrutiny, with outspoken Fiji P.M. Frank Bainimarama saying he found his Australia colleague’s position on climate change, at the recent Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Summit in Tuvalu “very insulting and condescending”.

Folks in Canberra should realise that a lot more is at stake for communities in the Pacific affected by climate change. Members of the affected communities are on the verge of losing their culture, their identity, their knowledge passed down through generations and an island that they called home for thousands of years. 

No amount of foreign aid or job intervention schemes such Australia’s seasonal workers program can compensate for their loss.

For thousands of years these Pacific communities did not trouble themselves with who or what was beyond their traditional boundaries. They worked their gardens, went fishing, held feasts to mark the big occasions and were generally content with the life they lived. Most of them maintained a subsistence lifestyle, even after their nations’ independence. 

But when the weather patterns began to change in recent years to expose these communities to rising sea levels, increasing frequency in violent storms, and hotter and drier weather triggered by El Niño – they felt compelled to seek answers from their governments and the international community.

That obligation to those affected communities has over the years compelled regional leaders like Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, his Fijian colleague Mr Bainimarama and Tuvalu’s Enele Sopoaga to voice concern with Australia’s carbon footprint, with Mr Sopoaga recently threatening to pull his country out from Australia’s seasonal worker program.

It is tragic that the debate on climate change in the Pacific Islands – and its impact on low-lying island communities – has somewhat being overtaken and is now being driven by the geostrategic interests of the United States of America (USA) and its allies such as Australia on one side, and China on the other. 

Truth be told. Climate change-affected communities in the region do not really care about the geopolitical interests of the USA and China. They would welcome assistance of any form and kind from ‘friends’, and would shudder at any suggestions that they take sides in this Pacific-wide diplomatic wrestle. 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa put it succinctly in a recent interview with TVNZ.

“(The Pacific’s) only interest is to provide the kind of modern living, decent kind of modern living, of our people,” he said.

“And all those complicated issues impacting on the geopolitical relationship between the past, that is far beyond our concern.

“That is why I have often mentioned this — our friends and their friends are our friends. But their enemies are not our enemies.”

Communities in the region and their leaders are not pushing for Australians currently employed in the resource sector to be made redundant, as the Australian Deputy P.M. makes it out to be. 

The region just want an acknowledgement that climate change is already having an effect on thousands of Australian families – just like in the Pacific islands – and Canberra needs to make a commitment to work towards reducing its carbon emissions for the good of the planet.

Have a lovely Tuesday Samoa and God bless.  

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