Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, arrived in Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila last Sunday to announce her government’s unflinching commitment to helping the battered South Pacific nation.
Clearly moved by an aerial view of the destruction wrought by catgery-5 Cyclone Pam, Ms Bishop told Vanuatu’s Prime Minister, Joe Natuman: “I want to assure you that the Australian government and the Australian people will continue to support you in your time of need, not only in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, but I know that your long-term recovery efforts will take some time."
She promised further financial assistance on top of the $10 million already allocated to non-government organisations as well as the on-going support of 600 military personnel. Military hardware, desalination equipment, food and water, and shelter kits were also promised.
But one of the major nation-building recommendations made by the Foreign Minister was to urge Australian tourists to consider Vanuatu as a future holiday destination: "When Vanuatu is ready to open its doors to the tourist trade I encourage to people to come back here to this beautiful place.”
While there’s little doubt that Vanuatu is in desperate need of material aid and resources from its rich neighbours, the people of Vanuatu may well have appreciated some other words of comfort – words that addressed the climate change disaster risks faced by Vanuatu and other nations in the South Pacific, and beyond.
Vanuatu’s’ traumatised citizens may have even expected a touch of contrition on the part of the Foreign Minister; a genuine sense of remorse for a situation caused in part by rich nations like Australia polluting the stratosphere, leading to the very sort of category-5 cyclones experienced by the Ni-Vanuatu just over a week ago.
After all, scientists like James Hanson from NASA have long been warning governments around the world that a warming planet will lead to epic and highly destructive storm systems.
To save the Foreign Minister and indeed her department’s public servants from expending further time and energy on speech writing, I am going to suggest the following text that might be read by Julie Bishop the next time she visits Port Vila. I hope she likes it:
A Draft Statement For Julie Bishop
Men and women of Vanuatu,
Australia stands with you in this time of national tragedy. We will continue to send military, non-corporate aid and other forms of assistance to your beleaguered nation and to offer all the necessary help and assistance we can to ensure that you rebuild your beautiful country. This is our ethical duty. We recognise that as one of the world’s leading per capita emitters of carbon we have a moral and ethical duty to help you. We will do so directly and indirectly.
The destruction wrought on your nation by Cyclone Pam can, in part, be attributed to the actions of nations around the world, including Australia, which have, despite all the evidence, failed to stem carbon emission levels. It is because of our intransigence, our greed and self-interest, and our tendency to ignore what scientists have long told us, that events like Cyclone Pam have occurred.
But we can change. It is our government’s intention to listen to the advice received from the world’s leading scientists and to put an end to the extraction of coal and other fuels that harm the planet.
We no longer believe that coal is good for humanity – in fact the very reverse. Within our lifetimes, we will seek to turn Australia into a clean energy nation, one that its people can be proud of, and one that other nations can benefit from in terms of a liveable planet.
We will contribute billions more to the Green Climate Fund, as this too is our moral and ethical duty. And for those nations whose people have been displaced by anthropogenic climate change, we will support as many of you as we can to relocate to our country which, even though it is experiencing its own climate challenges, has plenty of room and wealth to sustain us all.
We will show care and compassion to people who flee their nations. Policies that cause harm to men, women and children will no longer be our nation’s way. We will, in future, abide fully by international conventions to which we are a signatory, and we will abide by global agreements that seek to reduce carbon emissions.
Australia will now take its place in the world community, and we will not simply pursue our own interests to the detriment of others. We recognise that our policies on climate change have been weak and at times, cynical.
But we intend to rectify this. We will abandon the widely criticised Direct Action policy and replace it with measures that will ensure a clean energy future. This will greatly assist in terms of building global agreements to save our planet.
To the people of Vanuatu I say: please find it in your hearts to forgive us because we know exactly what we do, and for that, we are truly sorry.
Thank you, and have a nice day.
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