Anthony Albanese accuses Peter Dutton of ‘dog-whistling’ after attack on Cop27 climate damage fund | Australia news


Anthony Albanese has accused Peter Dutton of “dog-whistling” and boosting the re-election chances of teal independents and Greens over Liberals after the opposition leader attacked Labor for supporting a fund to help the developing world recover from climate catastrophes.

Dutton opened the first question time after the Cop27 summit querying whether “charity” should “begin at home”, after the climate conference agreed to establish a response fund to help vulnerable countries rebuild social and physical infrastructure after extreme weather events exacerbated by greenhouse gas emissions.

The opposition leader asked why, “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 $2tn loss and damage climate fund which will send money overseas and beyond our region?”

Dutton continued: “Prime minister, doesn’t charity begin at home? And when will you start helping Australian families instead of giving away their money?”

Albanese then rounded on Dutton, declaring the framing of the question offensive and reminding the Liberal leader he had once stood under a microphone “making jokes about Pacific Islands drowning”.

The prime minister pointed out having a serious climate policy was “the price of entry” into productive global relationships in 2022. He said international development assistance served Australian interests.

“The idea that any foreign aid is giving Australian’s money to foreigners ahead of Australian interests – the leader of the opposition knows better,” the prime minister said. Albanese added Dutton knew “exactly” what he was doing in framing the question in that way.

Then, gesturing at the crossbench, where teal independents and Greens now occupy seats formerly held by the Liberals, the prime minister said: “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”.

Albanese then turned back to Dutton. “I say to the leader of the opposition, you are better than that. You’re better than that.

“Or maybe you’re not.”

Dutton, who is experimenting with ways to re-weaponise climate action at a time Australians are worried about rising consumer prices, asked a version of the same question just before Cop27 got under way in Egypt.

Appearing on the ABC shortly after question time, the shadow foreign minister, Simon Birmingham, struck a different note. Birmingham said the loss and damage agreement struck in Egypt was “scant on details” so the nature of commitments under the prospective fund were not yet clear.

Rather than characterising development assistance for climate disasters as “charity” Birmingham acknowledged the Coalition had provided climate change assistance “neighbours and friends” while in government.

Birmingham said Australia would need to make sure that the Pacific remained a priority if there was a transition to an international fund by “ensuring that there is no dilution of support to our Pacific Island countries who we need to be at the forefront of assisting”.

It was put to Birmingham that many Pacific nations were calling for the global fund.

The shadow minister it was important “that we do work as closely and in lockstep with them as possible” but he said it was also important for Australia to maintain discretion about where the funding went. Australia would need “confidence that Pacific Island nations are getting the support that they need”.

The issue of loss and damage was front-and-centre during the UN climate conference in Egypt.

Developing countries for decades have called on the developed world to provide more assistance to help them recover after climate-related disasters. But the developed world, concerned about assuming liability, has resisted those calls, arguing existing green funding could be used for that purpose.

But the European Union swung behind the concept in the dying days of Cop27, supporting a fund in principle on the condition that big economies and big emitters still classed as developing countries under UN climate rules would need to make contributions. This means countries like China would be part of the scheme.

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