Scott No Compassion
It beggars belief.
The Prime Minister of Australia – who considers himself to be a devout Christian man* – has demonstrated both an extraordinary lack of compassion and political judgement since the Australian bushfire crisis started in October.
It is now a matter of public record that a panel of the nation’s former fire chiefs attempted to meet with Scott Morrison early in 2019 to warn him of the pending fire season. Mr. Morrison essentially palmed them off; refusing to meet with them primarily because they dared mention “climate change”.
As the fires broke out in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland unseasonally early and with uncharacteristic ferocity, concerns were raised about the adequacy of the fire fighting response. In particular, the lack of available fire fighting aircraft and the challenge of fatigue from volunteer fire brigades who have been working for an extraordinarily long time. Unphased by all of this, Scott Morrison said with relative indifference that fire fighting was a responsibility of the states and that fire fighters “wanted to be there“.
Following that, Mr. Morrison thought it was a good idea to head off for a Christmas holiday in Hawaii whilst large sections of his home state New South Wales were experiencing the worst fire season ever recorded, and the catastrophe had spread to Victoria. For days, he refused to come home. After a phenomenal backlash, he returned and apologised. Sort of.
Once back in Australia, Mr. Morrison went missing again before turning up to pose for photographs with cricketers. He told the nation that the playing of sport would essentially comfort a weary nation. That didn’t go down well either.
Keen to be seen to be doing something, Mr. Morrison then decided to visit the ashen remains of Cobargo, New South Wales, with the media in tow. He didn’t tell the local MP that he was coming and was ill-prepared for the angry abuse that he received from Cobargo’s newly homeless population who have endured significant trauma and loss. The local state MP, who had been left in the dark about the visit and also happens to be a member of the Liberal Party, told the Seven Network that he “got the welcome he deserved”.
I am unsure what Mr. Morrison expected to find in Cobargo, or how he thought this would all play out, but it was seriously miscalculated. The worst moment occurred when he forced a pregnant and homeless Zoey McDermott to shake his hand against her wishes. When she then pressed him about his government’s indifference to the town’s plight, he literally turned his back on her and walked off. Just like that.
At this point, national anger towards the PM was rising to unseen levels, so Mr. Morrison decided to ask the Governor-General to authorise the deployment of 3000 army reservists to assist with the bushfire response, but failed to inform the head of the Rural Fire Service (RFS) of New South Wales, who exasperatedly rebuked the PM at a press conference. That’s right, the man in charge of the fire fighting effort in NSW was left in the dark.
The final straw then came when Mr. Morrison posted a social media advertisement promoting the Commonwealth Government’s response to the bushfires – the epitome of poor taste. Worst of all, the video posting was accompanied by a “DONATE” button, but not for bushfire victims – instead for the Liberal Party. That’s right, the PM authorised a fundraiser campaign for his party off the back of a natural disaster. All of this raises serious integrity issues.
Facing such a disaster (a political one of his own making), Mr. Morrison has since decided to abandon the coveted budget surplus and do “whatever it takes” to assist with bushfire recovery. About time!
Yet even here, there were problems. Following the deployment of the Royal Australian Navy to rescue fire-affected coastal communities in Victoria, it seems that the PM’s office fabricated a story that the NSW government refused offers of Navy assistance for their communities, which they strongly deny. What is going on?
What has made so many people angry is that the government was warned that this bushfire season would be horrific, but chose to ignore the message. Back in November, the Deputy PM and National Party leader Michael McCormick, even went as far as to dismiss those concerned about the impact of climate change on bush fires as “inner-city raving lunatics“. Then the government actively sought to frustrate COP25 and failed to show any interest in the disaster. The PM’s personal response has demonstrated a contempt for the nation and her people, the likes of which I have certainly never seen before from any leader on any side of politics.
Politically, it will take a lot for “Scotty from Marketing” to recover from this fiasco, if that will ever be possible. Despite all the scientific evidence, and now anecdotal evidence in the form of this bushfire disaster that carbon emissions lead to global warming, Scott Morrison’s Liberal government has steadfastly refused to even consider improving its meagre carbon emissions reduction targets. At the end of the day, they refuse to acknowledge the link that is otherwise obvious to all.
These bushfires are a catastrophe. They’re a catastrophe for the families of the victims killed, they’re a catastrophe for those who have lost homes and businesses, they’re a catastrophe for agriculture and they are a catastrophe for the environments that have been incinerated.
Whilst open sclerophyll (eucalypt) forests in many parts of Australia are used to fire, seldom have the fires been of this extent nor intensity. How many ecosystems will have been permanently destroyed? Both alpine and rainforests have caught fire this year. This isn’t normal. This will probably lead to the extinction of threatened animals, birds and plants whose only habitats have been completely destroyed.
Our beautiful country is being destroyed and our communities are being decimated. All the while, our coal-wielding Prime Minister thinks that the best course of action is to walk away and leave it to someone else.
Much of the forest will recover and eventually so will the communities, but Australia needs real leadership and not a cold indifference to the plight of her people.
* With due regard for Matthew 7:1-5, please refer to Matthew 6:5.