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Burning Continents, Secret Travels and Scott Morrison

The bush fire situation in Australia is now deemed catastrophic. And it started early, with a relentless ferocity that has seen thousands of volunteers stretched across the states and a slow but assured rise in the number of deaths. Currently, there are fires raging at emergency level across New South Wales, and major incendiary activity in South Australia and Victoria. Saturday was deemed by NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons “awful”, given the loss of 20 homes in a “mega-blaze” northwest of Sydney in the Gospers Mountain. To this could be added fires at Currowan, Kerry Ridge and Upper Turon Road, Palmers Oaky.

The announcements keep coming; we are witnessing a logbook of environmental terror and despair, with jottings of lost homes, destroyed property, and incinerated fauna. While this has been happening, the Australian prime minister took leave for a family trip to Hawaii. Deputising in his stead has been the less than impressive Nationals leader Michael McCormack, who said last month that bushfire victims “don’t need the ravings of some pure enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time when they are trying to save their homes.”

It is not unusual for leaders to leave in such moments for a vacation; history is replete with examples of those seeking distraction in times of crisis. If the leader is relishing a moment of enjoyment, the populace will be reassured. While it would be churlish to deny them a chance for recreation and relief over a parliamentary recess, doing so in times of lethal crisis might be considered more than just poor form. When that period of leave is supposedly taken without formal announcement, electors may see red.

It took the deaths of two fire fighters, Geoff Keaton and his friend Andrew O’Dwyer near Buxton south of Sydney, to finally convince Morrison that he should cut his Hawaii vacation short. On Friday, he announced that he would return “as soon as can be arranged” expressing “regret [at] any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time.”

This did not mean, Morrison assured, that he was uninterested or inactive in matters touching on Australian welfare. “I have been receiving regular updates on the bushfires disaster as well as the status for the search for and treatment of the victims of the White Island tragedy.” But shaming social media hawks did the rounds, finding images suggesting that the prime minister was still enjoying a spot of Hawaiian fun before his departure.

Leaving aside the mandatory mutterings of apology that come with being caught out, the Australian prime minister had it coming. He has made every effort to normalise environmental catastrophe, putting it down to the natural ebb and flow of Australia’s harsh conditions. The choking haze of Sydney arising from bush fires was to be expected; he remembered them as a boy growing up.

As part of what may be more an instinct than a strategy, he has sidelined those pointy-heads, the irritating experts that have some to signify so much that is supposedly wrong with what is done (or not). One such expert, you could say, is former Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Greg Mullins. In November, he told ABC’s Radio National program how he had warned Morrison twice, first in April, and again after the May election, that the coming bushfire season would be exceptionally dangerous.

The response was telling: Mullins was told that the Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, would be in touch. This was symbolic. With Australia facing probable incendiary calamity, the Morrison government had cold-shouldered such concerns by passing concerns to the energy portfolio.

It would take weeks before Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud would take the reins over the issue and seek a meeting. Even then, Morrison did not deem it relevantly grave to warrant seeing members of the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action and those seasoned in battling fires. “By that time,” recalled Mullins, “what we’d predicted earlier in the year had manifested… That something is on everybody’s TV screens at the moment. We saw it coming. We tried to warn the government.”

On November 29, 2019, Mullins sent Littleproud a letter briefing him of potential responses as part of the fire and emergency chiefs’ advice ahead of their meeting. They include recommendations that the government “take immediate measures to aid current firefighting and community protection efforts by the States and Territories”; “make effective strategic interventions to increase community resilience and support fire and emergency services to cope with a more dangerous environment”; establish a “suitable reporting and auditing framework”; and focus on combating climate change as “the key driver of worsening fire and extreme weather risks.”

The fourth recommendation would have been particularly stinging to Morrison and McCormack. Terms such as “empirical data”, “peer reviewed”, and “irrefutable scientific findings” rarely fly in the Liberal and Nationals party room these days. “To protect Australians from worsening bushfire conditions and natural disaster risks, Australia must accelerate and increase measures to tackle the root cause, climate change.”

With such a barrage of advice, and Morrison’s Hawaiian stint, the government finds itself cornered ahead of Christmas. Even McCormack finds himself conceding that some nexus between climate change and fire risk exists, if only because the community thinks it does. “Yeah, I do, absolutely – yeah I do agree entirely.” But, and here it remains a resounding “but”, there was “a lot of hysteria around climate change.” Akin to the devout and pious, the Nationals leader had a weak suggestion: comfort those “who have lost loved ones” and address “fires as they are occurring.” Plus ça change.

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  1. Harry Lime

    The country is in the hands of the most self centred, incompetent and dishonest cockheads we have ever had the misfortune to suffer. To add insult to injury ,we have an alleged Prime Minimal who is the most abysmal,phoney and arrogant liar, suffering from a terminal case of righteous delusion, who just happens to belong to a cult of destructive, prosperity fckwits to boot. This is certain to end badly for a lot of people. A penny dreadful masquerading as a Harley.

  2. paul walter

    I still say it was convenient for Morrison to be out of the country as the Nats launched their assault on what remains of actual water policy through new trade articles and local silencing/dumbing down, very Trumpist, in the face of the already manifest destruction of the Darling river system.

  3. Carol Taylor

    I believe that Morrison also failed to follow protocol and did not bother to gazette an Acting Prime Minister. As stated by former senior public servant Paul Barrett on Twitter, there are reasons why we need to know who is formally in charge. Apparently this trip to Hawaii was planned some months ago as a promise to his wife and children. When you have accepted the job of leader of a country, there are times when duty must prevail against personal preferences. That Morrison could not put his country’s need ahead of his own indulgences says a lot.

  4. Phil Pryor

    With a manifestation of filth in charge, superinflated by ridiculous superstition, we are stuffed, for enough dickheads, dummies and drongos voted this shitheaded crew back in. How far can selfishness, ignorance, undereducation and stupidity take us..?

  5. paul walter

    Included in the need to know are surreptitious trips to meet with shadowy folk who do not have others interests at heart.

    They are paid by us.

    “Not in my name”.

  6. Keith

    Morrison set his own standard when he attacked Police Commissioner Nixon. He has failed.
    Through his comments about not changing his policy on climate change,Morrison has virtually stated he does not represent a large sector of the Australian community. He governs for his fossil fuel mates only it would seem, they provide huge donations to his Party.

  7. James Campbell

    I do not begrudge Mr. Morrison his Holiday with his Family.
    My problem is that I believe that he should have returned to Australia
    as soon as the severity of the Bush Fires was revealed.
    His is a job that has to be seen to be done as well as be done.
    As the Leader of this Country he should have been here to
    guide the Government in its response to the situation.

  8. Kerri

    #Caroltaylor spot on!

    #jamescampbell the bushfires were well in the catastrophic zone before Morrison left. The kids form a convenient excuse to keep it a secret. Has anyone interviewed the kids at their school?

    How can we put our faith in “leaders” ( and I use the term loosely ) whose only faith is in an unproven, invisible entity who they believe will serve them above all others?

  9. Henry Rodrigues

    No surprises that there has not been a word of criticism of the actions or lack of, by the prime dickhead and his party of arseholes, by any of the mainstream media including the ABC led by that mealy mouthed yes person buttered on both sided. Shows how deep into the clutches of crinkled scroat Murdoch and bloated Gina and the rest of the mining magnates and their apologists, this crooked bunch of bastards who lead this nation, are. I cry for the land and the wildlife and the honest hardworking people who strive to nurture protect and care for it. As for the dickhead who prefers to holiday far away from the heat and smoke, he can go get stuffed.

  10. Patagonian

    Screw it, I’m over being reasonable towards these unmitigated bastards. I DO begrudge him his bloody holiday! Having dispensed with parliament for the year, the weeks afterwards could have been used to get some serious planning in place. That’s what you do when fire chiefs have been trying to tell you ALL YEAR about what was going to occur – and sure enough it did – but no, he is God’s anointed one and he knows best. Had he actually listened and acted, it is entirely possible that the fires would not have been so savage and the worst effects mitigated. As it is, all the firies can do is to try to stop them spreading. They can’t put them out. Our plan, in one of the wealthiest and most technologically advanced nations in the world, is to wait for rain to extinguish them. THAT IS OUR PLAN. SMEGGING BRILLIANT

    We still have months of this to go. Sydney is already on Level 2 water rationing and we are barely through the first month of summer. People in rural and remote areas are having to get water trucked in or buy it in big plastic bottles. Some of them can’t afford to buy water and have to rely on the kindness of strangers. What is this, the Grapes of Wrath? The dust bowl in the 1930s USA? Hell, there wasn’t enough water to fight the fires we have just had, let alone those to come and water is being stolen from public reservoirs on a regular basis. The Captain of the Balmoral Fire Brigade – a town which has been burnt off the map -has stated that they RAN OUT OF WATER WHILE FIGHTING THE BLAZE. When a water helicopter has to refuel with water from a small suburban swimming pool, you know you are up shit creek sans paddle.

    Batemans Bay is deserted and it is peak season. Beaches up and down the coast are covered in black ash. Anybody thinking of going on holidays in bushfire-prone areas is taking a big risk, as there won’t be the medical expertise available in small towns and if the roads are impassable there won’t be any transport available to big city hospitals. Tourists are wandering around Sydney with looks of bewilderment on their faces, wondering why the can’t see the bridge and the opera house through the smoke. International tourism will be dramatically affected.

    Hundreds of small family businesses have gone. Thousands of people have lost their livelihoods. Any day now we will start hearing more stories of the unemployed out battling the fires, and those who cannot get to their Centrelink interviews because the roads are impassable, having their Centrelink payments suspended. It will be a miracle if there are not dozens of firies who develop PTSD – on top of everything else they have to deal with, hearing koalas scream like little babies as they burn to death must be horrific.

    The damage to our ecosystems will take hundreds of years to repair, if in fact it is repairable at all. The koalas are basically gone. When fires come back for the second time and burn through land that was only burnt through two months ago, when the sand is on fire, when crowning fires become the norm, the land cannot recover.

    Firefighters and their families are openly scathing of Morrison and Gladys Doolittle. I have never seen this before. Never pick a fight with a firie, the community holds them in the highest esteem. Politicians, on the other hand, were recently rated second-last on the Australia Talks list. Only celebrities rated lower. And that list was composed prior to the last few devastating weeks.

    I don’t believe Morrison will recover from this. He’s still trying to be the strong man and is characterising the community’s rightful fear as ‘politically motivated panic’ to try to get him to do more. But as desperate as Morrison is to draw a line under it, the ongoing and cumulative effects of this unprecedented event will take him out. We will be reminded every time we receive our annual house and contents renewal. Tall Tales Taylor has a massive target on his back – his own party is gunning for him – and as for the cretin McCormack, well words fail. They have well and truly exposed themselves. And as we get closer to the next election, we have Sir Malcolm Tremble’s autobiography to come. Given his performance on a recent Q&A, where he openly viscerally attacked the COALition at some length, I bet it will be a doozy.

    So yes, I DO begrudge him his holiday. In fact, I begrudge him his very existence, because he couldn’t care less about mine or that of any other person who is not a member of his mumbo-jumbo, dark age cult.

  11. Henry Rodrigues

    Well said Patagonian, every word you wrote is an indictment of the most useless criminal PM we’ve ever had. Tony Abbot was bad enough and now this guy takes over the dubious mantle. Still not a word of criticism from Murdoch or Stokes or Costello or the Fox bullshitters or even our now crappy ABC.

  12. DrakeN

    Now, just what was the cost to the economy of taking some appropriate action to limit climate change?
    Well, this debacle is part of the cost to the economy of not taking action.
    The costs to individals by way of trauma, livelihoods, family etc. are immeasurable.
    You describe it well, Patagonian.

  13. deacon

    funny how we arnt hearing of any critisim of the greens for protesting n stopping back burning for years had there not been so much under growth and huge trees close to houses we wouldn’t be as badly affected. people arnt even allowed to clear around their houses wake up Australia and get advice from our aboriginal leaders

  14. Patagonian

    Hey Deacon, look over there!

  15. DrakeN

    Deacon your idea of facts is much akin to the local church deacon’s concept of biblical consistency.
    Plain and simple indoctrinated bullshit.

  16. Lantanaman

    It is just so depressing that we have this God-botherer as the so called head of our government. He believes in miracles, he thinks, prayer will deliver us from misfortune, evil, the Labor party, the Canberra bubble. He just oozes a supercilious manner, struggles to conceal his contempt for journalists who have the effrontery to question his judgement, Joh Bjelke Peterson had the same MO, he just went about it differently. It is patently clear that he resents having to suffer the torment of fronting up to the media scrum and answer these annoying puerile questions, his superciliousness just oozes from his pores.

    I thought Toxic, Capt s call, Tony was the pits, he can t hold a candle to this cretin, he has set a new bench mark in being un-statesmanlike. I suppose after the shock that the good burghers of the US of A could elect their own Neanderthal man, the risk was that we would follow their lead. Then we are such great imitators and followers of that nation, those of us old enough to remember sycophantic Harold Holt, proudly proclaiming, Äll the Way with LBJ” as we blindly believed and followed and supported them in the great lie that was the Vietnam problem, that unless the “forces of Good”, us, took action against, “the forces of evil”, the communist North, backed by China and Russia, then we would all, in the “free world”, succumb to the hordes, a la the “domino theory”.

    If this is what democracy has become in our burning country, then drastic things need to happen, just because we have not gone down the route of truly damnable demonic governments, and there has been far too many of them, murderous psychopaths whose hunger for wealth, power and self aggrandisement lends license to do whatever evil them deem necessary and justify it as being for the nation`s good, this is not self delusion then what is?

    I am not clever enough to know what we can replace our monumentally broken system with, I just know that what we have is floundering tragically and that many of us just accept the status quo because that is all we know.

    Greed is, I believe, at the core of civilizations problems, we are all greedy to a greater or lesser extent, we are all capable of wrong doing, evil if you like again to a greater or lesser extent. The majority of people fit some where in the middle of the bell curve, going through life suppressing antisocial urges, no doubt looked down upon as docile underachievers and a burden on the achievers. The political leaders, the entrepreneurs, the risk takers would view the masses as dross holding back progress, that their lot is to be exploited. That that is all we are fit for. The poor might be poor but it is easier to extract large sums of money from a legion of poor people than similar sums from a small number of mega rich people and corporations. We are being exploited people, a great many of us know it but feel powerless, a lot know it yet still vote these dangerous people into power, sort of like a weird Stockholm syndrome situation.

    The ship is sinking and the captain and his crew are in denial, either they are so stupid as not to recognise the dire situation we find ourselves in or they secretly do but are paralyzed, incapable of action like a deer in the head lights. Whichever is the case the situation for present and future generations is looking bleak as the incumbents focus is on personal survival and wealth generation, that they proclaim service to the people is no more than empty rhetorical spin,

    If I was a person given to prayer, I`m not, I would pray that this God-botherer would bugger off to his heaven ASAP.

  17. Peter F

    James Campbell:
    “he should have returned to Australia
    as soon as the severity of the Bush Fires was revealed.”

    Surely you are aware that the PM was caught in a building in Sydney when the bushfire smoke caused the fire alarms to be triggered. That was the day the Ferries were stopped on Sydney Harbour because of the smoke.

    He left for his holiday AFTER that experience: Quite simply, he abandoned his post as leader.

  18. Eva Whybrow

    DEACON: “The Australian Greens support hazard reduction burns and backburning to reduce the impact of wildfire when guided by the best scientific, ecological and emergency service expertise.”

  19. Eva Whybrow

    I certainly begrudge him his holiday! Who among the rest of us gets three periods of holiday leave a year – probably totally taxpayer funded of course? Thirty sitting days a year in parliament must be REALLY exhausting huh?
    A leader doesnt EVER abandon his country and people for personal holidays in times of crisis – not ever! To attempt to shift the blame onto his children by inference is a fairly low act as well in my opinion.
    There is no excuse for his behaviour in leaving the country in a state of crisis OR for the insulting and offensive language he has used in reference to both these catastrophic fires and concerning those who continue to fight them on behalf of and to protect the people of this country – regardless of personal danger and severe financial stress (in a lot of cases).
    It would be nice if Scummo and his band of merry halfwits had a fraction of the empathy, compassion and sense of responsibility that the fire fighters of the country possess.

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