Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has criticised US president Barack Obama for a speech in Brisbane last weekend in which he claimed climate change threatened the Great Barrier Reef.
Speaking to 7.30 from New York, where she is attending a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Ms Bishop said “there was an issue regarding [Mr Obama’s] statement” and she could “understand the Queensland Government’s concern”.
In a speech at University of Queensland, Mr Obama had said that: “Here, a climate that increases in temperature will mean more extreme and frequent storms, more flooding, rising seas that submerge Pacific islands … The incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened.”
Ms Bishop told 7.30: “We are demonstrating world’s best practice in working with the World Heritage Committee to ensure that the Great Barrier Reef is preserved for generations to come.
“I think that President Obama might have overlooked that aspect of our commitment to conserving the Great Barrier Reef.”
Extra troops to fight Islamic State ruled out
It is highly unusual for an Australian foreign minister to openly criticise a US president.
Ms Bishop also said Australia currently had no intention of committing extra forces or resources to the mission against Islamic State, even though the White House had discussed it with the Abbott government.
“We have already given our commitment, and this was at the invitation of and with the consent of the Iraqi government,” Ms Bishop said.
“I think that President Obama was directing his request to the other coalition countries that might not have provided resources within Iraq or within Syria.”
This appeared to contradict Mr Obama’s statement on November 10 at the APEC conference in Beijing, where he said: “I am having conversations with Australia and other coalition partners that are already committed to putting trainers in to see how they can supplement and work with us in this overall effort.”
Ms Bishop also made comments that appeared to rule out further Australian involvement, for the time being.
“We haven’t been asked to supplement our resources by the Iraqi government and I do point out that we are in Baghdad at the invitation of and with the consent of the Iraqi government.”
Asked if this was a diplomatic snub directed at Mr Obama in response to the climate change remarks in Brisbane, the Foreign Minister said she was “surprised” such a link would be made and that there was no connection between the two issues.
Bishop latest Coalition politician to take aim at Obama
Ms Bishop is not the only Coalition politician to voice criticism of Mr Obama, with frontbenchers Joe Hockey and Jamie Briggs making comments in the wake of the Brisbane speech.
Mr Briggs labelled the address as a “massive, massive distraction” from the rest of the G20 summit, while the Treasurer said it would be difficult for Mr Obama to deliver on his stricter emissions standard pledge.
“Barack Obama has to get any initiative on climate change through a hostile US congress … I mean, that’s up to the US, but so far he hasn’t had great success,” Mr Hockey told Insiders.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned the Great Barrier Reef could be at risk if more is not done to reduce carbon emissions.
The Federal and Queensland governments released the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan in September, but the 35-year plan stopped short of banning the dumping of dredge spoil into the marine park.
Environmental groups wanted a complete ban on dumping dredge spoil in reef waters.
The UN’s World Heritage Committee has deferred a decision on whether to list the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger” until next year.