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'Climate refugee' risk as Torres Strait Islanders take sea level concerns to candidates

Tom Zaunmayr -

Successive Federal governments' failure to protect Torres Strait communities from rising sea levels has left islander residents at risk of becoming "climate refugees", a Federal election candidates forum has heard.

Speaking in Cairns on Tuesday night, Warraber man Kabay Tamu warned Leichardt hopefuls this failure risked another "colonisation-style" tragedy should islander residents have to leave their traditional homes.

Mr Tamu described seawalls recently funded by the Federal Government as a "band-aid" which did nothing to ensure the long-term viability of island life.

"We have struggled to work with the current government and other governments over the years to address these issues over the years," he said.

"If no action is done now it could come to the stage where we are asked to be removed from these islands we have called home for thousands of years.

"This will have a massive impact on our culture, our livelihood; removing a race of people from country is like colonisation all over again for us."

Leichardt Animal Justice Party, Greens, Labor and Socialist Alliance candidates addressed about 200 forum attendees on the topic of climate changes' impact on Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands.

It was the second First Nations Cairns forum on the same day incumbent Liberal-Nationals MP Warren Entsch did not attend.

Labor candidate Elida Faith said a Labor government would fund solar banks and community batteries, reduce the cost of electric vehicles and work with industry and the public sector to reduce emissions through the party's Powering Australia plan.

Ms Faith said she would take up the issue of a First Nations veto over resources projects with her party should she be elected, but could not commit Labor to enacting it.

Greens candidate Phillip Musumeci said the private sector was leading the way in the absence of Federal support for emissions reductions.

Animal Justice Party candidate Susanne Bayly said focusing on emission and energy alone would not save the Torres Strait Islands.

"We need to rapidly rewild, restore and protect what we have," she said.

Socialist Alliance's Pat O'Shane said First Nations people should have right of veto over resources projects on country.

One Nation, United Australia, Katter's Australia Party and other micro-party candidates did not attend.

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