Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says he is touring the Pacific region to investigate the impact of climate change, not to capitalise on perceived Liberal Party insensitivity.
Mr Shorten arrived in Papua New Guinea with Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek and Immigration Spokesman Richard Marles on Sunday.
He said he wanted to show Labor would take the concerns of Pacific nations more seriously than the current government.
“The message I’m already getting loud and clear is that climate change is a first order issue for our neighbours and we need … Australia to have serious policies, credible policies which will help to contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change in our region,” he said.
The leaders of some Pacific Island nations have criticised the Government’s response to climate change, and expressed offence when Immigration Minister Peter Dutton joked about its impact on Pacific countries.
But Mr Shorten said his trip was a fact-finding tour, not an attempt to exploit tension between the Pacific and the government.
“Having Liberal Ministers making a joke about climate change, especially when rising sea levels are threatening the livelihoods and homes of our neighbours, was incredibly poor taste,” he said.
“But Labor doesn’t get distracted by Liberal gaffes.”
Mr Shorten will fly to the Marshall Islands today and will also visit Kiribati later in the week.