Bill's Media Releases

REMARKS TO WELCOME RECEPTION HOSTED BY KIRIBATI PRESIDENT, ANOTE TONG

STATE HOUSE, KIRIBATI




TUESDAY, 3 NOVEMBER 2015

 

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Mr President, thank you for hosting me, my deputy and my shadow minister for immigration who many of you know.

It is a privilege to be in beautiful Kiribati.

Yours is a remarkable country – the only one to extend across all four hemispheres, with an exclusive economic zone larger than India’s.

Your people see the sun rise on each new day before anyone else on earth.

And you are among the first to see the threats and damage of climate change.

For Kiribati, climate change is not an economic debate – or an environmental one, it goes far beyond that.

It is a clear and present danger to your homes and communities, to your many islands and atolls less than 2 metres above sea level.

Now I’d read about this, I’d seen that fact written down.

But driving here from the airport, seeing how narrow this land is…

You gain a deeper sense of how much is at stake, how grave the danger is and how urgent it is for all of us to work together to tackle climate change.

Mr President, this is where your leadership has been so important.

You have stood up for your home, for your people and for island nations like yours around the globe.

You continue to open the eyes of the world to the real and immediate consequences of climate change.

We thank you for that and we look forward to discussing what more we can do to support your efforts.

Australia’s relationship with the Pacific region is very important to all of us in the Labor Party.

The Pacific doesn’t stop at the equator – and neither should Australia’s role.

True friendship isn’t about saying nice things at the right time.

It’s about standing up for your friends and helping them when they’re in trouble.

Australia has to do more of this in the Pacific.

The most recent declaration from the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby called on us to work together to “amplify the voice of the Pacific”.

Australia should play a leadership role in this.

We should use our voice to tell the world what is happening here in the Pacific.

It is why we helped bring Ban Ki-Moon here to see what was happening.

Your story, the story of your country can help the whole world face up to the challenge of climate change – and accept responsibility for a response that will help those most in need, first of all.

This is one of the reasons my friends and I are here – we want to help raise awareness and build a case for international action.

Mr President, a few months ago, you asked the Prime Minister of Australia to come and see for himself the reality of climate change.

I couldn’t come as the Prime Minister - this time.

But in bringing Labor’s leadership team, I hope you see how much your cause means to us.

In Opposition – and in Government – Labor will always take the challenge of climate seriously.

And we will always seek to fulfil our responsibility, as a member of the Pacific family.

Your nation will always have a place in the hearts and minds of Australians.

Thank you for your hospitality.

ENDS

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