Australian P.M. eats during Pacific leaders' summit, draws scorn

By Tina Mata'afa-Tufele 08 August 2021, 4:20PM

Social media users have chastised Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for eating while in an historic digital meeting of the 50th anniversary of the Pacific Islands Forum on Friday in an act widely viewed as disrespectful.

Twitter users, from journalists to academics and Pacific islanders criticised the P.M. for eating what looked to be toast, for having a drink and for talking to people while the meeting's opening progressed.

Dr. Anna Powles with Massey University in New Zealand, called out the P.M.'s lack of manners and inappropriate behavior “during a meeting of significance.”

Mr. Morrison sent a “poor message” to the Pacific Forum, she said in a tweet.

“Would the Australian P.M. eat and drink his way through a meeting with the QUAD, ASEAN, G-20? This sends a pretty poor message to the Pacific,” Dr. Powles said.

Veteran Samoan journalist Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson noted that it was “extremely rude in many Pacific cultures” for Mr. Morrison to eat while a leader was speaking.

“Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison eating during the official opening of Pacific Leaders Meeting. This is extremely rude in many Pacific cultures, to eat during an official ceremony while a Chief or Leader is speaking,” Lagipoiva wrote on Twitter.

Similar tweets flooded Twitter on Friday. 

“Wonder if he would do that if meeting with European leaders? Or A.P.E.C. leaders?,” said Dr. Tess Newton Cain at Griffith University in Australia.

The meeting was significant for many reasons.

The meeting marked the 51st Pacific Islands Forum and Related Meetings and commemorated the beginning of the 50th anniversary of the Pacific Islands Forum.

It marked 50 years to the week (August 5-7, 1971) that Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga met in Wellington to speak on ‘matters of common interest’.

It was the first Forum meeting addressed by a U.S. President.

Mr. Morrison was seen eating while Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano was speaking.

On Friday, Mr. Natano handed over as Forum Chair to host of the 51st Islands Forum and Related Meetings, Fiji Prime Minister Josaia V. Bainimarama.

Screenshots, memes and even TikTok videos have been made to poke fun at the Australian P.M.'s cultural faux pas.


By Tina Mata'afa-Tufele 08 August 2021, 4:20PM
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