12/09/2015 11:40 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Peter Dutton's Controversial Climate Change Slip Was 'A Lame Joke', Says Tony Abbott

Getty Images/Stefan Postles
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 23: Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton is sworn in by Governor-General Peter Cosgrove at Government House on December 23, 2014 in Canberra, Australia. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott today announced his first ministerial reshuffle to Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

"A 'lame joke." That's how Prime Minister Tony Abbott summarised Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's verbal slip about climate change

Less than 24 hours after the immigration minister was caught joking about the plight of Pacific Island nations facing rising sea levels, Mr Abbott defended Mr Dutton by insisting our national focus should have been on the decision spearheaded by Mr Dutton to take an extra 12,000 refugees from Syria.

While on the campaign trail ahead of the Canning by-election in Western Australia, Mr Abbott told reporters: "It says something about the quality of our national conversation that a lame joke should be of more interest than something which is truly nation building and truly transforming which reflects Australia at its best.

"Here we made a decision which reflects Australia at its best, and then we have a subsequent Twitter storm, which if I may say so reflects Australia at its worst."

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