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Forum: let’s be Pacific

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Archbishop Fisher OP joined current and former civic leaders for the popular show. Photo: Supplied
Archbishop Fisher OP joined current and former civic leaders for the popular show. Photo: Supplied

Archbishop talks migration and climate on ABC’s Hypothetical panel discussion

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has joined with senior Australian and Pacific Island political leaders, a former Australian ambassador to China and a retired Chief of the Australian Defence Force for a landmark Hypothetical discussion on the future of the Pacific region, led by international human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson.

Over 2000 people attended the event on Thursday 4 August at the International Convention Centre at Darling Harbour in which Mr Robertson led the panel in a two hour discussion covering a range of contemporary issues and challenges in the region, from the impact of climate change through to the influence of China and the United States in Pacific affairs.

The panel members were asked to reflect upon the prospect of Australia accepting around 11,000 refugees from the small Pacific island of Tuvalu in the near future if the island sinks due to the impact of climate change.

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Archbishop Fisher explained Christians always have a moral duty to provide support to refugees.

“If the house beside you is burning down, you let those people come into your house and you care for them,” he said. “These people are our neighbours and it is our moral duty to always share what we have with people in desperate need”, he said.

That was a view shared by Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham who was also on the panel and in a hypothetical context was presented as Australia’s future Immigration Minister in a few years time.

“In the 2010s, Pope Francis told the Church to get out of fossil fuels and so the Australian Church has been divesting itself of those interests for a generation now.”

“We’ve certainly had precedent for this before and we’ve seen just recently through the support we’ve provided to refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine and before that in conflict zones in countries such as Afghanistan and Syria”, he explained.

Members of the panel, which also included former Defence Force Chief, Admiral Chris Barrie and Australia’s former Ambassador to China, Dr Geoff Raby and Vanuatu’s Opposition Leader, Ralph Regenvanu were guided through a scenario in which they were together on a cruise ship with fellow Australians sailing towards the Pacific islands in the near future.

Archbishop Fisher was asked about the moral obligation the Catholic Church has around ensuring its institutions are committed to addressing climate change and he explained to the panel how the Church has been making good progress on this matter for a number of years.

“In the 2010s, Pope Francis told the Church to get out of fossil fuels and so the Australian Church has been divesting itself of those interests for a generation now”, he said.

The hypothetical forum pondered many foreign policy possibilities including a return to the White House for President Trump, Taiwan being granted a United Nations seat and the Tuvalu government being offered the choice of funding a new football stadium by China or a new university by the United States.

The discussion ended on a light-hearted note with the Tuvalu economy saving itself from the potential oblivion of climate change through a $300 million windfall from cashing in on the lucrative “TV” internet domain name and then purchasing Hayman Island off the Queensland coast to relocate its citizens there.

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