Australia

Fiji PM returns serve to John Alexander on Pacific climate change comments

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Source: AAP

Fiji's prime minister has hit out at former prime minister Kevin Rudd and current Liberal MP John Alexander for their comments about the impact of climate change on the Pacific.

Fiji's prime minister has slammed tennis great-turned-Liberal MP John Alexander for telling his citizens to "move to higher ground" to escape the rising waters caused by climate change.

Frank Bainimarama also said former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd was insensitive and "neo-colonial" for wanting Australia to relocate Pacific islanders in exchange for control of seas and fisheries.

In a speech to the 6th Australasian Emissions Summit in Melbourne, Mr Bainimarama said Fiji was lucky to even have higher ground for people to move to. 

"I will hit back the proverbial tennis ball, of course, with this: In Fiji, we have already moved three communities and have a priority queue of about some 40 others waiting to be relocated," he said on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Fiji PM Frank Bainimarama at an official dinner in Suva in January.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Fiji PM Frank Bainimarama at an official dinner in Suva in January.
AAP

"The decision to relocate a Fijian community may seem like an easy one, but abandoning your home isn't some cold and calculated business decision.

"For those affected, it's a deeply emotional loss."

Mr Rudd's call for Australia to offer Pacific islanders homes in exchange for control over their seas was strongly rebuked.

"In a time where we must be future-facing, we can hardly tolerate such insensitive neo-colonial prescriptions," Mr Bainimarama said.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd suggested Australia should offer Pacific islanders citizenship in return for control of seas and fisheries.
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd suggested Australia should offer Pacific islanders citizenship in return for control of seas and fisheries.
AAP

Fiji ran the global climate process last year and Mr Bainimarama repeated his call for Australia to ban the construction of new coal mines.

"We need to address the root of the problem by urgently modernising and decarbonising our economies," he said.

"It is also a mistake to talk only about the cost of mitigation because mitigation brings new technologies and new opportunities."

Mr Bainimarama called on Australia to show leadership like Canada, Argentina, New Zealand and Scandinavian countries, which have promised to do more to cut emissions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week admitted emissions had risen under the coalition government since 2013.

Mr Bainimarama said getting 200 nations to agree to collective action was always going to take time but it needed to accelerate.

"Slow progress was to be expected until we reached a crisis point. The existential crisis of humankind has arrived, in 2019," he said.

Labor environment spokesman Mark Butler will speak at the conference, but unlike previous years, no coalition government MP will be present.

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