We’ve all seen the movie or read the book that has, as a part of the plot, a group of relatives who are reluctantly invited to the wedding only because they are family. Frankly, no one really likes them due to their boorish and overbearing attitudes. Stereotypically, while giving the (usually unwarranted) impression of moral and financial superiority, the unwanted are guilty of attempting to monopolise the conversation, force their morals and ethics on others as well as harassing and bullying others for disagreeing with their particular world view. Regardless of the real reason for the family gathering, in the unwanted’s opinion, ‘it’s all about me’. Typically the storyline will have the unwanted come in late, create mayhem and disruption then leave after dropping a clanger or two on the assembled guests as a farewell ‘present’.
It’s not hard to make comparisons with this plotline and Australia’s behaviour at the recent Pacific Forum in Tuvalu. According to The Guardian who interviewed Fijian Prime Minister Bainimarama
Morrison’s approach during the leaders’ retreat on Thursday was “very insulting and condescending”
“Yesterday was probably one of the most frustrating days I have ever had,” he said of the leaders’ retreat, which lasted for nearly 12 hours and almost broke down over Australia’s red lines on the climate crisis.
“After yesterday’s meeting I gathered [Morrison] was here only to make sure that the Australian policies were upheld by the Pacific island nations,” said Bainimarama.
“I thought Morrison was a good friend of mine; apparently not.
“The prime minister at one stage, because he was apparently [backed] into a corner by the leaders, came up with how much money Australia have been giving to the Pacific. He said: ‘I want that stated. I want that on the record.’ Very insulting.”
Bainimarama then went on to suggest that Morrison was pushing the Pacific towards China.
The basic problem here is that Morrison is sitting on both sides of the climate fence. He and the LNP have painted themselves into the corner through pandering to various self-interest groups and whichever way they turn, they take the risk of disaffecting a significant group of people, funding and supporters. As Katherine Murphy discusses
Campaign calm down is part of Morrison’s ongoing effort to straddle two domestic constituencies: the coal communities who worry Labor has abandoned them in the service of climate science, and Liberal voters in the cities who think climate change is a real thing, and the government should do sensible things to try to avert it.
To the coal communities, Morrison projects a disposition of “I’m on your side”. To moderate, rusted on, Liberal voters in the cities, Morrison regularly accepts the science of climate change, and signals he is not crazy retrograde on this stuff, like Tony Abbott was.
Morrison can’t be seen to be agreeing to any actual commitment that accepts climate change as a reality for want of offending a large group of his supporters, neither can he argue the opposite as there is a significant group of LNP voters that disagree with that position.
This might be OK politically in Australia, but when the highest point in your country is 4.5 metres above sea level, as is the case in Tuvalu, political issues in Australia probably aren’t considered to be as important as concerns around the potential for your homeland to become uninhabitable, arguably with some justification. The Tuvalu Government’s website discussion on the mitigation required and underway to hopefully address some of the issues resulting from climate change is here. It’s well worth a read.
While Morrison’s behaviour didn’t attract many positive comments, his actions pale into insignificance with some of his fellow travellers. Exhibit one is Alan Jones who told Morrison to shove a sock down the throat of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for the horrific crime of disagreeing with Jones’ hard-line conservative position on climate change. Jones seems to have a problem with female leaders as he also made extremely personal and disparaging comments about former Prime Minister Gillard and berated the CEO of the Sydney Opera House Trust live on air for failing to allow advertising to be projected on the sails. Fortunately, others who have the authority to determine Jones’ fate finally made a stand threatening one more outburst would result in Jones’ contract with Macquarie Radio being torn up.
Exhibit two in the shocker of the week where diplomacy went out the window along with a lot of credibilities — we had the Deputy Prime Minister McCormack wanting to take us back to the days of cargo cults by claiming:
Pacific island nations affected by the climate crisis will continue to survive “because many of their workers come here to pick our fruit”.
Clearly, Australia’s current leaders don’t want to get along with our ‘Pacific Islands’ family and we also have radio announcers that believe they have so much anointed power and authority they can insult a foreign leader without fear of repercussions.
No movie script would go that far.
What do you think?
This article was originally published on The Political Sword.
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