Kennedy Graham questions the Prime Minister on accepting climate change refugees from the Pacific

18.4.13 - Question 9: Dr Kennedy Graham to the Prime Minister

http://www.greens.org.nz/oralquestions/kennedy-graham-questions-prime-minister-accepting-climate-change-refugees-pacific

Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Prime Minister: Will he commit his Government to accept citizens of Pacific Island countries displaced by sea level rise as a result of climate change?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Prime Minister: New Zealand has strong relationships with many Pacific Island countries. If rising sea levels caused by climate change were to threaten their long-term survival, which, it is important to understand, would likely be some way in the future, it would be my expectation that future New Zealand Governments would look very sympathetically on their position.

Dr Kennedy Graham: In light of the response, what is the Prime Minister's response to President Anote Tong of Kiribati, who said this week that "For our people to survive, then they will have to migrate. Either we can wait for the time when we have to move people en masse or we can prepare them—beginning from now …"?

What is the Prime Minister’s response to President Anote Tong of Kiribati, who said this week that “For our people to survive, then they will have to migrate. Either we can wait for the time when we have to move people en masse or we can prepare them—beginning from now …”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Obviously I am aware that the three countries with the largest potential exposure to sea-level rises are Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Tokelau. As the Prime Minister said back in 2009, New Zealand, of course, has a strong relationship with all three of those countries and would be working closely with them, and, in fact, continues to work closely with them on matters like climate change and a whole range of matters that are very important to them and other Pacific countries.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Given that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that for some Pacific nations sea-level rise poses risks "to their sovereignty or existence", will he accept that a specific plan needs to be developed now?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, not at this time, but, as I said in the answer to the first question, it is my expectation that Governments will continue to work closely with the potentially affected countries and would look very sympathetically on their position should the need for such an approach arise.

Dr Kennedy Graham: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It has been established, I think, in the context of my questioning and certainly from World Bank and UN documents that the need is recognised internationally as now. The Minister has responded that it would be at some future time. I put it to you that the time is now, which is what I have tried to get across to the Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: That point is certainly open to debate. The Minister adequately addressed the question that was asked by the member.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Working on the assumption that the time is now, even if that is a debatable point, will his Government propose at the Pacific Islands Forum this year that a regional relocation plan be drawn up—and if it is a contingency plan, so be it—to address the needs of Pacific Island States and investigate the capacity of Australia, New Zealand, and other recipient countries to take displaced people from Pacific Island States?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: We will, of course, be continuing dialogue not just with the Pacific Island countries and not just at the Pacific Islands Forum but also with our Australian colleagues in relation to the issue that the member raises. It may be helpful for him to know that, I understand, the Refugee Council of Australia is proposing something similar at this point in time. We do not know yet whether that is something that the Australian Government will consider, but New Zealand and Australia have a close relationship on these matters and we continue to discuss them at the appropriate times.

Dr Kennedy Graham: I seek leave to table three documents, if I may. The first is a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees document dated May 2011, headed "Climate Change and the Risk of Statelessness; the Situation of Low-lying—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is that publicly available off the web?

Dr Kennedy Graham: It may be on the website of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It is a UN document.

Mr SPEAKER: I think it is relatively easy for members to access if they so want.

Dr Kennedy Graham: The second is a speech by the President of Kiribati dated 27 February 2013 headed "Global Collective Action Needed".

Mr SPEAKER: Is that readily available to members? I suspect it—

Dr Kennedy Graham: I do not believe it is readily available.

Mr SPEAKER: Let us put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular speech. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

  • Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Dr Kennedy Graham: The final one is, in fact, an article responding to the Minister's point about the Australia being urged to recognise—

Mr SPEAKER: If it is an article, I take it to be press article?

Dr Kennedy Graham: It is a UK Guardian article.

Mr SPEAKER: That is available to members who want to seek it. It will not be tabled.

 

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand