- Australia agreed to $2 trillion climate loss and damage fund for poorer nations
- Fund will help pay for disasters caused by climate change rich countries created
- Peter Dutton said to ‘help Australian families instead of giving away their money’
- Prime minister accused him of using an offensive appeal to racist voters
Anthony Albanese has accused Peter Dutton of ‘dog whistling’ to racist voters by complaining about Australia paying poor countries for climate damage loss.
The opposition leader began Question Time on Monday by asking ‘doesn’t charity begin at home?’ regarding the up to US$2 trillion-a-year international fund.
Australia signed up to the loss and damage climate fund at the COP27 summit in Egypt on Sunday, along with other rich nations.
The fund will help developing countries deal with the affects of climate change, such as natural disasters and rising sea levels, but details are still to be hammered out.
Anthony Albanese has accused Peter Dutton of ‘dog whistling’ to racist voters by complaining about Australia paying poor countries for climate damage loss
Mr Dutton argued Australian tax dollars should be spent in Australia instead of being used as what was essentially foreign aid.
‘At a time when Labor’s policies are driving up cost-of-living pressures for families, the government has just signed up to funding a $2 trillion loss and damage climate fund which will send money overseas and beyond our region,’ he said.
‘Prime minister, doesn’t charity begin at home? When will you start helping Australian families instead of giving away their money?’
Mr Albanese said the question was offensive and a tactic by the Coalition to ‘dog whistle’ to racist voters.
‘The idea that any foreign aid is giving Australians money to foreigners ahead of Australian interests, the leader of the opposition knows better, and he knows exactly what he is doing with that question,’ he said.
‘And the only people who are pleased about that question are the people sitting in the corner up there.
‘Because they represent seats that have rejected that sort of dog-whistling tactic from the Liberal Party.’
The ‘people sitting in the corner’ were the teal independents who snatched safe Liberal seats at the election by combining pro-business policy with progressive social policy and support for climate action.
Mr Albanese’s reference to ‘dog whistling’ describes a strategy of using coded language to appeal to a particular group without saying something others are likely to take strong issue with.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton argued Australian tax dollars should be spent in Australia instead of being used as what was essentially foreign aid
‘The only people who are pleased about that question are the people sitting in the corner up there,’ Mr Albanese said, pointing at the teal independents who took safe Liberal seats by advocating progressive social policy and climate change action
The PM also went after Mr Dutton for a joke he made in 2015 to then-PM Tony Abbott about drowning Pacific Islanders.
Mr Dutton was overheard remarking how late a meeting was running, which Mr Abbott said was the same as climate change talks he just had with with Papua New Guinea leaders.
‘Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door,’ Mr Dutton joked in response.
Mr Albanese said Australia needed an opposition that cared about tackling climate change, not ‘that sort of nonsense’.
‘I’d say to the leader of the opposition, ‘You’re better than that. You’re better than that’… Or maybe you’re not,’ he said.
Mr Dutton made a fresh apology for the joke, was described as ‘vulgar’ and ‘soft bigotry’ by Indigenous leaders at the time, soon after being elected Liberal Party leader in May.
‘I’ve made some poor-taste jokes, like any person, over the years, and I’ve apologised for that,’ he told ABC News when asked about it.
‘I’m as human and as frail as anybody else.’
The climate loss and damage fund was the main aim of developing nations heading into the COP27 summit last week.
The US and EU have long resisted the idea of paying for damage they caused through historical carbon emissions, fearing massive legal claims.
However, both relaxed their position as the week went on when it was agreed it would be a fund they contributed to, not the threat of direct claims.
Almost all the details are still to be worked out, including exactly who will be eligible, who will pay, and what kinds of disasters could be compensated.
The US and EU also want China, which though listed as a developing country but the UN has the world’s second largest economy and pumps massive amounts of CO2 into the air, to pay as well.
China initially won’t be required to, but the possibility of it and other big emitters like India contributing will be be discussed later.
Youth activists hold signs encouraging world leaders to maintain policies that limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times and provide reparations for loss and damage at the COP27 summit
Victims of the unprecedented flooding from monsoon rains use makeshift barge to carry hay for cattle, in Jaffarabad, Pakistan, in September
Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna, a former prime minister of the Cook Islands, told COP27 delegates ‘the climate crisis is our daily reality’.
‘On loss and damage, we cannot wait for the next COP to see action. We are experiencing loss and damage now, and delaying tactics are not acceptable,’ he said on Wednesday.
Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen said before the deal was struck that it was too soon to commit Australian funds to the loss and damage mechanism.
Mr Bowen has made much of Australia’s support to ensure the loss and damage issue was on the COP27 agenda, but consistently said this year’s summit was never meant to talk about who would pay for what.
That, he said, is an issue for down the track.
‘You’re asking me how we’ll respond to a facility which does not yet exist and which has not been agreed at this COP yet,’ he said on Friday.
Australia quickly committed to the fund as soon as it was agreed to two days later, but its level of contribution is still an open question.