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Abbott accused of being on islander time

Tony Abbott has faced a counter-accusation of being on “islander time” at Pacific leaders talks in Port Moresby.

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A high-level source within the Pacific Island Forum told AAP the leaders’ retreat finished at 6pm on Thursday, but Mr Abbott and his New Zealand counterpart, John Key, were having a gossip session and delayed the news conference by half an hour.

Kiribati President Anote Tong sat alone in front of the media pack while forum host PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill patiently waited upstairs for the Australian and NZ leaders to wrap up their chat.

Cabinet minister Peter Dutton was caught on Friday joking about the plight of Pacific island nations facing rising seas from climate change.

Noting that a meeting to discuss the resettlement of refugees was running a bit late, Mr Dutton quipped that it was running on “Cape York time”, to which Prime Minister Abbott replied: “We had a bit of that up in Port Moresby.”

Mr Dutton then said: “Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door.”

The pair clearly were not aware the conversation was being picked up by broadcast media microphones at Parliament House where the meeting was being held.

When asked about it later by reporters, Mr Dutton said: “I had a private conversation with the prime minister. I don’t intend to comment.”

When pressed, the minister said he did not have anything more to say.

It is understood the faux pas has offended many Pacific island delegations at the forum.

“Ronald Reagan taught the world to watch out for microphones,” the high-level source said, referring to an incident during a 1980 election debate.

Mr Abbott attended the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby on Thursday.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said this was a bad joke by a minister who was a bad joke.

“But the fact that the prime minister’s laughing along with it reminds me of Barack Obama, the United States president said: any leader who doesn’t take climate change seriously is not fit to lead,” he told reporters in Perth.

Climate group 350杭州桑拿按摩, called for Dutton to resign.

“Climate change is a daily reality for us in the islands and climate inaction from countries such as Australia is only worsening that reality,” 350杭州桑拿按摩, Pacific co-ordinator Koreti Tiumalu said in a statement.

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