Boomgate boo boo: Dutton's lame apology misses the point

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Peter Dutton’s lame apology for his “joke” about the plight faced by island nation populations places the Abbott Government deeper in controversy about its policy on climate change.

His apology completely failed to address the fact that his quip suggests the Government is not concerned about the scientific warnings of the catastrophic consequences of climate change.

What he should have said was: “I am sorry I said what I did. I fully appreciate how worried these island nations are that their homes are likely to swamped and entire populations will have to be evacuated.”

He should have been able to say: “The fact is that the Abbott Government takes man-made climate change very seriously and our policies to mitigate its effects demonstrate that my comment did not reflect the Government’s concern for these people.”

But, of course, he couldn’t say anything like that because his comment underlines the way in which the Abbott Government treats the scientific evaluation of climate change with disdain.

His stance, both through the original comment and the phrasing of the apology, proves the Government is completely out of step with most other western governments, as well as out of touch with the views of most Australians.

In June, the Lowy Institute found that nearly two thirds of Australians polled said the Government should commit to significant emissions reductions so that other countries will be encouraged to do the same.

Dutton’s comment about island nations on Friday was:

“Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re, you know, about to have water lapping at your door.”

The Government then broke a golden rule of politics: when you stuff up, apologise immediately and move the story off the news agenda.

Rule two: When you deliver an apology, make sure it puts the issue to bed.

After two days of derision, Dutton put his foot deeper in the lapping mire.

“Obviously it was a private conversation,” he said, suggesting that the comment was typical of his private view that climate change is not a serious issue.

He also said:

“I made a mistake and I apologise to anyone who has taken offence to it. It was a light-hearted discussion with the PM and I didn’t mean any offence to anyone.”

His categorisation of the remark as being a light-hearted discussion with the prime minister and the fact that the PM was seen laughing are cause for further concern.

The prime minister made the mistake on Saturday of suggesting the media should have focussed on the decision to accept 12,000 additional refugees instead of on Dutton’s comment.

The link between the two stories is the forecast that thousands of Pacific islanders will be displaced by water lapping at their doors and could well become refugees knocking on Australia’s door.

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