Australia

Australia minister Dutton under fire for climate joke

  • 11 September 2015
  • From the section Australia
Peter Dutton speaks during the media opportunity as the one year to go countdown begins until the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup at the Queen Street Mall on 14 February 2014 in Brisbane, Australia Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Dutton has declined to comment on the faux pas

Australia's immigration minister Peter Dutton has come under fire for making light of rising sea levels affecting Pacific Island nations.

Mr Dutton was caught on camera joking about "water lapping at your door" to Prime Minister Tony Abbott - who chuckled as well.

The embarrassing faux pas came shortly after Australia refused to commit to further climate change pledges.

That decision attracted criticism from Pacific island leaders.

'Bad joke'

Mr Dutton had made the joke on Friday in Parliament House while waiting for a meeting, which was being covered by the media, to start.

He was standing next to Mr Abbott, who had just returned from the Pacific Islands Forum in Papua New Guinea's capital Port Moresby where leaders had been discussing climate change and rising sea levels.

When Mr Dutton commented on the meeting running late, Mr Abbot replied: "We had a bit of that up in Port Moresby."

Mr Dutton then joked: "Time doesn't mean anything when you're about to have water lapping at your door."

Social services minister Scott Morrison, who was standing next to them, then pointed out that there was a boom microphone above their heads.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Abbott (right) attended the Pacific Islands Forum earlier this week along with New Zealand PM John Key (left) and Papua New Guinea's PM Peter O'Neill (centre)

Mr Dutton was lambasted by several opponents including the leader of the opposition Bill Shorten.

"It was a bad joke by a minister who is a bad joke," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Greens senator Larissa Waters said in a tweet that it was a "breathtaking global warming gaffe. If there's a joke here, it's Abbott's climate policies."

Mr Dutton has refused to comment on the joke, and told reporters it was a "private conversation with the prime minister".

The smaller countries at the Pacific Islands Forum, which ended this week, had wanted to commit to a tougher target for global warming limits, but Australia and New Zealand refused. Kiribati president Anote Tong called the decision "disappointing".

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