Asia-Pacific

'Part of the same Pacific family': Fiji PM visits Australia, despite scathing climate attack

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a Traditional Ceremony of Welcome with the Prime Minister of Fiji Frank BainimaramaThursday, January 17, 2019. Source: AAP

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is visiting Australia just weeks after slamming Australian PM Scott Morrison for being "insulting and condescending".

Fiji's prime minister will arrive in Australia on Thursday, just weeks after slamming Scott Morrison's "insulting and condescending" attitude.

At the Pacific Islands Forum in August, Mr Bainimarama launched a scathing attack on Australia's approach to the island nations, particularly over climate change and new coal mines.

In an interview with Guardian Australia, Mr Bainimarama accused Mr Morrison of being "very insulting and condescending" during a leaders retreat.

"I thought Morrison was a good friend of mine, apparently not," he said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrives in traditional Bula dress to an official dinner in Suva, Fiji, Thursday, January 17, 2019.
AAP

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has insisted the two countries relationship is "strong" with a "long history of cooperation" ahead of the visit.

"We are all part of the same Pacific family, the Pacific vuvale," he said.

Greens MP Adam Bandt said he expects the meeting to be "uncomfortable" - blaming the PM for not taking enough action on climate change.

"It is a matter of life or death for many Pacific Island nations, and Scott Morrison has to look the Fijian prime minister in the face and explain why he is condemning pacific island countries to death," he said,

"The prime minister goes overseas to the Pacific Islands and visits there Churches but he sends them to hell."

 

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference during the Pacific Islands Forum in Funafuti, Tuvalu, Friday, August 16, 2019.
AAP

The Greens MP pointed to reports the prime minister will not be attending a UN climate action summit scheduled during his upcoming visit to the United States as an example of his "climate change contempt",

Foreign Minister Marise Payne and ambassador for the environment Patrick Suckling will be attending the summit on behalf of the government. 

"Scott Morrison is flying all the way to the United States to meet Donald Trump but will then snub a crucial climate crisis summit happening just around the corner a few days later," Mr Bandt said.

"This doesn't just make us an embarrassment to the world community, it makes it harder to combat the climate crisis and we're not in a position to ask other countries to do more." 

Mr Morrison will be hosting Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama as a guest from 12-17 September.

He hailed Australia's relationship with the Pacific and says the two leaders had committed to holding more regular meetings.

He said climate change would be among the shared regional challenges discussed including illegal fishing, trade and labour mobility,

"Australia is committed to stepping up our engagement with Fiji and the Pacific more broadly to address common challenges and deepen longstanding ties in our region," he said.

When earlier asked by The Guardian if Mr Morrison's approach might cause some Pacific leaders to look to China, Mr Bainimarama said: "After what we went through with Morrison, nothing can be worse than him."

"China never insults the Pacific," he said.

The August Pacific Island Forum ended with a statement calling on major economies to "rapidly implement their commitment to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies".

Many of the forum members wanted to single out coal-fired power for its impact on the climate, but the language was rejected in the final document.

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