7 Jan 2006

Australian government snubs call to help low-lying island nations

5:50 am on 7 January 2006

The Australian government says there's no evidence to suggest the populations of Pacific Islands are in any imminent danger of being displaced by rising sea levels.

The Federal Labor Party released a policy paper this week, calling on the government to help internal relocation efforts in affected countries, and also accept so-called climate change refugees.

But the environment minister, Ian Campbell, says the suggestion is absurd.

Labor said a number of island states, including Tuvalu, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu were losing land, fresh water supplies and food sources, as a result of rising sea levels.

But a spokesman for the foreign minister, Alexander Downer, says it's too early to provide an accurate assessment of regional trends.

The spokesman says it's important to recognise that islands, as he puts it, "rise and fall in height as a result of geological pressure".