A fair-weather friend? Australia’s relationship with a climate-changed Pacific

by Louise Collett

This paper examines Australia’s attitudes to climate change in the region under the two most recent federal governments. The Howard Government’s engagement with the region profoundly influenced understandings of Australia’s role in a climate-changed Pacific. During its time in office, the realities of climate change were largely denied, the Pacific was portrayed as volatile and potentially threatening and non-Anglo migrants were demonised as the Australian electorate’s fears of terror and outsiders were exploited. Initially in opposition and later in government, the Australian Labor Party took issue with this approach. The ALP conspicuously accepted the probability of anthropogenic climate change. It also recast discussions of security in the Pacific as ‘collective’ within a developmental ‘human security’ framework. But over halfway into its first term, the Rudd Government has failed to secure a more hopeful outlook for Pacific Islanders when it comes to climate change.

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