Deputy PM apologies for saying Pacific islanders will survive climate change by picking fruit

Deputy PM apologies for saying Pacific islanders will survive climate change by picking fruit

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has apologised for saying that Pacific Islanders will be able to survive climate change by working as fruit-pickers in Australia.

Mr McCormack made the comments last Friday in response to criticism at the Pacific Islanders Forum that Australia is ignoring the threat of climate change to low-lying island nations.

On Friday last week the Deputy Prime Minister said he got “a little bit annoyed when we have these sorts of countries pointing at Australia and saying we should be shutting down all our resources sector so that they will continue to survive”, explaining that Pacific Islanders “will continue to survive because many of their workers come here and pick our fruit”.

He apologised on Thursday, claiming that his comments were an attempt to highlight the importance of Pacific Islanders to Australia’s seasonal labour scheme.

“Well look, if any insult was taken I sincerely apologise,” he said. “I come from an electorate where there’s a strong horticultural section, for which couldn’t operate without the labour force that’s provided by the Pacific Islands. The fact is we’ll always be great friends of the Pacific islands, and certainly, we rely on the Pacific islands, we rely on them, largely.”

Former President of Kiribati Anote Tong said Mr McCormack’s comments were appropriate for a drunk in a bar, but not for a leader.

Tuvaluan Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga, who hosted the Pacific Islands Forum, said the comments made Pacific Islanders sound like “paupers” begging Australia for support.

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