MP apologizes for Pacific ‘lapping water‘ comment


Mon, Sep 14, 2015 - Page 5

Australian Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton apologized yesterday after offending Pacific island leaders with his remarks about “water lapping at your door” following regional talks involving climate change, saying they were meant to be “light-hearted.”

Dutton had made the comments as he talked to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Friday ahead of an event which appeared to be running late, quipping as a microphone hovered overhead that “time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to be, you know, have water lapping at your door.”

Abbott had just returned from the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) meeting between regional leaders in Papua New Guinea, where combating climate change was a key issue.

“I should have realized the mike was there and didn’t,” Dutton said.

“But I made a mistake. I apologize to anyone who has taken offense to it. It was a light-hearted discussion with the PM and I didn’t mean any offense to anyone,” he said.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, who chaired the PIF meeting, yesterday said Dutton’s comments were “most unfortunate,” adding that “people in Pacific Island nations did not cause climate change, but they are suffering because of it.”

“Rising sea levels is a serious issue affecting thousands of our people around the Pacific,” O’Neill said.

“Communities are under threat and they are losing homes and their food source. People around the Pacific are living in fear with each high tide of storm,” he said.

Leaders at the PIF meeting agreed to disagree after Australia and New Zealand blocked a bid by small island states to limit average global warming to 1.5°C over pre-Industrial Revolution levels rather than 2°C.