‘She’s a joke’: Jacinda Ardern blasted
New Zealand has found itself caught in the middle of simmering tensions between Australia and other Pacific nations after some pointed comments from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday.
Ms Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison both landed in Tuvalu for the Pacific Islands Forum, where Australia is facing pressure to take greater action on climate change.
She immediately added to that pressure, saying Australia would have to "answer to" the rest of the Pacific.
"We will continue to say that New Zealand will do its bit. And we have an expectation that everyone else will as well. We have to. Every single little bit matters," Ms Ardern said.
"That is why New Zealand has joined that international call. That is why we speak, I believe, strongly on the international stage around these issues. But ultimately we have to take responsibility for ourselves.
"Australia has to answer to the Pacific. That is a matter for them."
Ms Ardern and Mr Morrison came together for a bilateral meeting later in the day.
Her comments came after she disembarked her plane in Tuvalu's capital, Funafuti, to hear a group of local children singing: "Save Tuvalu, save the world."
The assertion that Australia would answer to other Pacific nations sparked some pushback from the Australian media.
No one was harsher than 2GB radio host Alan Jones, who labelled Ms Ardern a "complete clown" and urged Mr Morrison to "shove a sock down her throat".
"Here she is preaching on global warming and saying that we've got to do something about climate change," Jones said on his show this morning.
"The fact is New Zealand's carbon dioxide has grown by 10.8 per cent per capita since 1990. Ours has grown by 1.8 per cent.
"I just wonder whether Scott Morrison is going to be fully briefed to shove a sock down her throat.
"She is a joke, this woman, an absolute and utter lightweight.
"These people are an absolute joke and Jacinda Ardern is the biggest joke."
The Australian's environment editor Graham Lloyd was more restrained.
"Demanding Australia abandon its coal production and exports for the good of the climate in the Pacific is akin to asking New Zealand to give up its love affair with sheep," Lloyd wrote.
"Ardern is naive if she believes such moves would be economically feasible or in the best interests of regional stability."
The Daily Telegraph's Tim Blair, meanwhile, made the point a bit more facetiously.
"New Zealand's 'luttle but' of carbon dioxide output doesn't make the slightest bit of difference to the fate of Pacific islands or anything else. Does Wellington even have factories?" he wrote.
This morning Ms Ardern's deputy Winston Peters, who is also New Zealand's Foreign Minister, walked back her comments and even defended Australia during an interview on ABC radio.
"Let's make no bones about it, Australia has been a great neighbour in the Pacific. They've put a lot of effort and a lot of care and a lot of attention and a lot of sound foreign policy over decades in the Pacific. Before people rush to judgment they should remember that," Mr Peters said.
He said every nation at the Pacific forum needed to outline its response to the challenge of climate change.
"The Australians have provided their response. The rest of us have provided ours. And to my knowledge it's not been the New Zealand Prime Minister who's raised the questions about the Australian response, it's been other members at the forum. But not our Prime Minister," he said.
Australia's response has been to redirect $500 million from its foreign aid budget to help the Pacific nations mitigate the effects of climate change.
But that has not been enough to satisfy all the other leaders.
Yesterday Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said the situation was "dire" for his country, whose highest point is just four metres above sea level, and the $500 million funding package would not make him "shut up" about climate change.
Mr Peters suggested criticism of Australia did not take in the full picture, and China needed to be brought into the conversation as well.
"You need to look at everybody, not just Australia, but also who is getting that coal and what things they are doing with it," New Zealand's Deputy Prime Minister said.
"What I'm sadly hearing is variations on a theme that (Pacific leaders are) all attacking the Australian Prime Minister, or that they've all taken the view, including New Zealand's Prime Minister, that the Australians are somehow acting incorrectly when that is not the proper picture or the real picture at all.
"There's a bit of a paradox here.
"There are many Pacific countries that are seeking cheap loans from China. Now those loans are on the backs of coal-fired everything in mainland China, as we well know. So you know, there's a big picture we've got to contemplate here, and we've got to ensure we act in this big picture, we act with consistency and integrity.
"You've got to look at everybody. Not just - for example, Australia's got coal and you're selling it. The next question is OK, who is getting that coal and what are they doing with it? We should keep our eyes on all the details."
Today Ms Ardern announced New Zealand would dedicate $150 million to a climate change support program in the Pacific.
She said she expected frank but constructive discussions on the subject behind closed doors.
"It is a place where we are able to talk frankly with one another, and I would expect that to occur on a range of issues," Ms Ardern said.
"But it is clear that climate change is the centrepiece of this, and I think what our Pacific Island leaders want to see is a transition. They want to see progress."
The behind-the-scenes negotiations will focus on the wording of a communique all leaders are expected to sign at the end of the forum.
Mr Morrison is expected to push back on attempts to include tougher language on climate change or the use of coal in that communique.