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Pacific needs more than Morrison's thanks

Kundiawa bushfire rally
'Simbu for Australia' bushfire appeal rally in Kundiawa last week led by author Francis Nii in his wheelchair

KATE LYONS
| Guardian Australia | Extracts

SYDNEY - When Scott Morrison thanked governments of the world for their assistance with Australia’s bushfire crisis, he particularly singled out “the loving response from our Pacific family”.

Across the Pacific region – a collection of developing and least developed nations that are themselves almost uniquely at risk from climate-induced catastrophes – the response to the Australian bushfires has been immediate and generous, but it also reveals something of the problematic fraternity that Australia has with the rest of the region.

The heartfelt response of Pacific nations to Australia during this time is in part a reciprocation of the assistance Pacific countries receive from Australia when crises befall them.

As James Marape, the prime minister of PNG, noted in his statement about the fires: “Australia is the closest friend of PNG and is always the first in PNG in our times of adversities.”

But Australia’s generosity also puts Pacific countries in a tight spot.

Pacific leaders have to walk a difficult line: keeping Australia and its financial support on side, particularly as they face the prospect of increased climate-related natural disasters in their countries, while wanting to challenge Australia on its climate policies.

A Pacific climate change coordinator once told me that he saw Australia’s relationship with the rest of the region on the issue of the climate crisis as akin to an abusive marriage.

On the one hand, he said, Australia provided aid to the region to deal with the effects of global heating, but then at international climate summits, Australia actively undermined global attempts – often spearheaded by Pacific leaders – to halt the climate crisis.

“It’s like you’re in a relationship and you get abused by your spouse but at the same time they feed you and clothe you and things like that.”

Pacific leaders are among the most outspoken and effective climate leaders the world has. We know they are angry at Australia’s refusal to transition away from coal, as well as Australia’s use of carryover credits to meet Paris targets.

We know, in the words of the former prime minister of Tuvalu, , Enele Sopoaga, that they see Australia as trying to save its economy, while they are working to save their people.

We know that they know Australia is not doing enough to tackle the climate crisis – the same climate crisis that is seeing their islands suffer rising sea levels, increasingly frequent devastating cyclones, salinity of the water table, erosion of their islands; that same climate crisis that threatens to make Australia’s current devastating fire season the norm for our future.

And yet, still, they are there to offer us help.

When asked whether he thought it was odd for people in a much poorer country like Papua New Guinea to be raising money for people in a wealthier one, Imbu, who organised a Lae fundraiser, said: “We live in an environment where the richest are getting richer and the poorest getting poorer, but as human beings we have this hardware, we try to help.”

Pacific nations deserve all the thanks Morrison has given them, but to survive, they need much more from him.

Comments

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Philip Kai Morre

Australia doesn't need our money in the bush fire appeal, they have enough to sustain their own problems.

What we have done, small or big, is only for appreciation of what Australians have done for PNG.

Australians fought our war from 1942 -1945 where lives were lost. They colonised us, fed us with education, healthcare and many developments that are beyond our appreciation.

On Sunday Cletus Kuble and I addressed the packed crowd of St Mary's Catholic Church that bushfire affected Australians needed our prayers more than material support.

We addressed the Catholics telling how Australia comes in with many forms of support through both government and churches.

I, as the president of the St Vincent De Paul organisation, know how old Catholics and countryside Catholics normally respond to our needs in an orderly manner when we have natural disasters.

We collected some money mostly from St Vincent De Paul members who sympathise and feel pain for the suffering farmers in Australia. Their prayers and teardrops speak volumes rather than material support.

Bernard Corden

It is rather embarrassing that Australia has a vapid and fustian ("Let me be clear") potato-head running the country., especially during a crisis. However, the opposition leader is as equally shameful.

We don't need a third political party in Australia but desperately require a second one.

Ian Ritchie

I'd prefer the title of this piece to be "Pacific (including Australia) needs more than Morrison".

At 57 years of age, I have for my entire adult life been a conservative voter. The last election was the first time I have voted against the conservative side of politics and quite deliberately voted for Labor.

This was simply because I saw Labor as being a less destructive force at a time where we need good management of our most prized asset, our home - planet Earth!

The Morrison/McCormack government, with their elitist team of senior ministers are actually a disgrace to conservative politics.

There is nothing conservative about gambling with our very existence and the existence of each and every species of fauna and flora on this planet.

PM Morrison's deep evangelical theological conservatism model has him seemingly believe that he is not so much taking directions from God, but he is God.

Deputy PM McCormack is waltzing around in circles in a bush-fire induced haze believing all is well, as even if our Pacific neighbours are rapidly drowning they shouldn't worry as at least they can pick Australia's fruit.

Of course one of the little problems with which Mr McCormack hasn't yet begun to grapple is that it is difficult to offer our close friends fruit picking jobs when all the fruit trees are ashes and the ground from which they grew is dust.

Perhaps PM Morrison may be advised to have a look at the state of the climate extremes which are becoming more frequent and more extreme and ponder at night, whilst snuggling up in bed to his favourite lump of coal, whether in fact God is trying to communicate and all he need do is pull his head from the sand and listen!

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