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Bushfires and blame

Scott Morrison is an empty liar and creep, but we have known that for years. However, he is not single-handedly responsible for bringing on these catastrophic bushfires.

I need to stress that because there is much he is guilty of, but the media campaign to protect him will be intricate and will capitalise on any inaccurate criticism; even as they mesh truth with fiction to form their alternative narrative. It is said that truth is the first casualty of war and it was a similar story here. There have already been some ridiculous claims made that would be laughable if the matter wasn’t so serious. I was initially reluctant to write about the fires whilst people’s lives were still at risk, but eventually decided actually we need to talk about them whilst the reality of their devastation is obvious to everyone. And with the maelstrom of spin, exaggeration and outright lies being thrown around right now- with due respect and genuine sorrow for all those whose lives were lost- I thought it important to put a few things in context.

To begin with, if you’re going to tell me climate change isn’t proven and that we have always had bushfires, stop there. If you believe that you know more than the global scientific community, then your peer group is made up of anti-vaccers and flat-Earthers. You should stick to chatting with them because I’m not writing this for you.

Another embarrassingly stupid false narrative is that The Greens are somehow responsible for these fires because they stop hazard reduction burns. There is a seductive appeal to these lies, because accepting them is going to be a lot more comfortable for many people than admitting they have been wrong about climate change. Even so, it’s a really stupid argument. Despite the fact, that the Greens do not have a position against back burning, or hold majority government in any state, this narrative (which has repeatedly debunked by fact-checking) has been pushed so hard by unscrupulous politicians, shockjocks and newspaper hacks (if you work for the Australian I’m probably talking about you) that some people are falling for it. Sadly, some people don’t just drink the conservative Kool-Aid Rupert Murdoch and his goons provide. They practically swim in it.

Another good example of this are those who inexplicably still try to defend Morrison’s gross negligence and misjudgement at jetting off on holiday as his country faced a disaster with the argument, “Well it would be even worse if Bill Shorten was Prime Minister.” Believe it or not, I have seen this written a number of times without a trace of irony (or self-awareness it seems) so I’ll take a moment to consider it. Scott Morrison is the only Australian Prime Minister I can remember who would consider trying to downplay (he really isn’t getting value for money from his empathy consultant) the challenges and suffering of those affected by the bushfire whilst heading overseas for a luxury holiday. I would say it is a pretty safe bet that Bill Shorten would understand exactly how important it was that a leader step up and be present in times like this, as he showed with his actions during the Beaconsfield disaster. Moreover, Bill Shorten went to last year’s election with a policy that explicitly recognised the dangers of extreme bushfires and would have allocated millions of extra dollars to firefighting resources! If he was in charge, it is actually arguable the damage from these fires would be less.

But it is also overreach to claim that these fires are the primary result of Coalition climate policy. Don’t get me wrong. Australian climate policy (or lack thereof) is atrocious and is contributing to continued global heating, but the increasing air temperatures, the drought and the drying of the vegetation are all the product of decades of global inaction. The Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government have been disgusting in their refusal to act and their efforts to downplay the real threat of climate change, but Australians re-elected them to office knowing full well how dismissive they were towards the threat of climate change. So while they are certainly complicit in these fires (especially Morrison considering his refusal to listen to warnings and allocate greater resources for this year) and those of the future, the government is unlikely to have prevented them simply by adopting a more sustainable policy in recent years.

The only way changing climate policy would have stopped these fires would have been if we had used diplomacy and climate policy to drive a world-wide policy shift to make a difference ten years ago (when scientists were already warning of these exact fires in the future), so it isn’t fair to suggest Morrison could have prevented them by embracing renewable energy. So while the fires seem to have made clear what a growing threat climate change presents (in a way that all of the previous “once in a generation” extreme weather events we have seen over the last ten year haven’t), you can’t lay all the blame on Scott Morrison and Gina Reinhart. Given the utter lack of morals Morrison has shown during his time in politics, I wouldn’t feel too bad for him if you did, but if there is one thing rich conservatives are good at it, it’s playing the victim (hello, Israel Folau). This type of hyperbole can undermine genuine criticism of both the Liberal government and the coal industry. And both of these entities have serious questions to answer.

This certainly doesn’t excuse our government’s wilful (arguably traitorous, given most of them benefit financially from the coal industry) negligence, but this victim narrative has already begun, especially in the Murdoch Press (which is also highly culpable for its long-running efforts to discredit climate science). The fact that Morrison could not have stopped global climate change is erroneously morphing to a narrative that he had no power to affect the extent of this crisis; and that his party’s long-running platform of science-denial and soft corruption involving the coal industry is not a problem. And this is blatantly false. Our government and our Prime Minister still have a lot to answer for

Against a global backdrop of international efforts to curb emissions, the Liberal and National Parties (along with their proxies in One Nation) have done everything they can to hinder and undermine any attempt at responsible climate policies and to discredit the warnings of climate scientists. And Morrison- famous for bringing a lump of coal into parliament- has been one of the worst. Even having seen the damage of the fires he has stated there will be no change the government’s climate policy. So they can certainly be more fairly blamed for their part in fires of the future.

Moreover, Morrison could have done a lot more to reduce the magnitude and impact of this disaster. These fires were not impossible to predict. They actually HAVE BEEN PREDICTED by climate scientists with uncanny accuracy in previous years. Even if he wanted to remain dogmatically against renewable energy, the Prime Minister could still have listened to warnings he has been receiving, by providing greater funding and resources to the fire services (as Bill Shorten would have). But he didn’t because he didn’t like the optics. Declaring a national emergency (which seemed a no-brainer at the time), increasing funding for firefighting services or appealing for international aid might have given greater ammunition to critics of his government’s climate policy at home and abroad. So he did nothing. He is such an empty PR-driven fraud that he is more concerned about the damage these fires can do to him politically than about the damage they are doing to real people’s lives.

And that is the true measure of him. Empty. Fraudulent. Useless.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Prime Minister and the party he leads.

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  1. JudithW

    You are being way too generous. There is evidence to show that deforestation and mismanaged hazard reduction burns cause drought, a factor which many have cited as contributing to these fires. Although states are responsible for hazard reduction burns and forestry, federal government are responsible for protecting national parks and water allocations.

  2. New England Cocky

    Compare the behaviour of Smokie Morriscum jetting off to Hawaii for a family holiday absence apeing the dinner date actions of Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon on Black Saturday, with Bill Shorten at the Beaconsfield mine disaster when the media were treated to hourly situation reports throughout the emergency.

    Refresh your knowledge of the 2019 Shorten Labor upgrading of the fire fighting air fleet and ask what did Smokie and the Deniers have planned for the future.

    If anybody ever doubted that this Lazy Nasty People misgovernment is inept, incapable and uncaring then they obviously have had their head in the sand since the 2013 Federal elections.

  3. Cl

    ScoMo is just one of any number of self-interested and/or pathological politicians that will avail themselves of power and wealth if enabled. Clearly, our system of democracy has been corrupted by corporations and individual interests, the erosion of independence of the judiciary, public service, law enforcement agencies, armed services, and civil institutions, the concentration of media controls, the apathy at best and ignorance at worst of Australian voters, and the compulsory voting system that compels every eligible Australian, ignorant or otherwise, to vote.

    The foregoing are symptoms of the malaise and the elephant in the room is lassaiz-fare, neo-liberal globalised capitalism that’s seen spectacular wealth transfer from the bottom to the top 10% since WWII. Equally spectacular has been the rise in inequality and billionaires’ wealth through dismantlement of the welfare state, the disenfranchisement of workers’ collectives/unions, draconian security and surveillance of our own citizens, the transfer of public to private user-pays services, destruction of the environment and species extinction, and speculative housing markets, to name but a few.

    Alternative economic systems exist that are designed to be more equitable but would require a radical overhaul of our systems of governance, along with a completely new Constitution that includes a Bill of Rights, Indigenous Recognition and protection of the Environment, and civil institutions.

    I fear it’s too late. Predatory Capitalism and greed has shown itself to be super-resilient, even in the face of impending self-extinction. White Australians have a history of limited resistence (eg Eureka Stockade) but to no avail. We don’t have a ‘people’s army’ to prosecute change or a coup d’etat. All of our security forces are instruments of executive power. Broad base, low-level activism is all we can do to achieve minor concessions from the ruling paradigm, ie ‘Nero strums his lyre while Rome burns’.

    The only consolation might be that while planet Earth will continue its life-cycle for another 4b years, home sapiens inexorably will go the way of the dinosaurs, and that will include the ecocide criminals ScoMo and the LNP/IPA, Murdoch and his minions, and the capitalist class. Nothing for it but to break out the popcorn and pop the champers. Pity for the younger generations.

  4. Yes Minister

    I concur that SCUMMO is an empty liar and creep, as is most if not all of his pitiful excuse for a government, however lets not forget the utter ineptitude and compliance of every other political party including the rats & mice. Where for instance are poorlene and those GAP nitwits ? Ultimately however, it is the apathetic sheeple who must bear the blame for the present state of affairs since precious few citizens have any interest in the political racket. There are far more of ‘us’ then ‘them’ and it stands to reason a civil disobedience / non-violent / revolt by even one percent of voters would have the power to demand our elected representatives sit up and take notice of us. That unfortunately is pie in the sky given that there are still millions of weldeds-on who believe the party they and their ancestors always supported is the holy grail. How often do we hear people stating that they vote for a known corrupt politician ‘because he gets things done’. It would be nice to believe that the fire disaster constitutes a wake-up call, but IMO anyone who believes that is deluded. More likely we are witnessing a re-run of Moses and the Pharoah when the Children of Israel wanted to leave Egypt. Ultimately it took a series of disasters of increasing magnitude before the Pharoah came to his senses. The exact same thing is destined to happen here, with ever worsening catastrophes until the fossil-fuel obsessed / climate change denialists finally realize that fanciful excuses like sunspots / Greenies preventing controlled burns / the climate has always changed etc etc can no longer be milked for everything they are worth. The question is just how bad catastrophes will need to be …. it will certainly take several times more magnitude than the fires in which only a couple of dozen victims and a ‘mere half billion’ animals died. Using the same logic the yanks used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is it better than a major city like Sydney or Melbourne get destroyed to save the rest of the country ? Personally I expect that it will come to that before the collective consciousness of both the sheeple and their elected officials recognizes that ‘business as usual’ doesn’t work anymore.

  5. Ross

    Scotty from marketing has had a lot of bark burnt off by his initial uncaring, inept and politically opportunistic response to the bushfires and its victims.
    Social media has given him a more appropriate moniker, Sooty from Marketing or just plain Sooty.

  6. Yes Minister

    I fear your comments are prophetic. As you state, the LOVE of money (commercialization / corporatization of every conceivable official function) is the root of all evil. No longer to governments and council acknowledge their responsibility to provide essential services, they and their bureaucratic / big business handlers have turned everything into a profit centre. Predatory Capitalism indeed at its very worst.

    Not only have the sheeple been blissfully slumbering whilst their birthright was embezzled, but they have embraced the official and corporate systems deliberately designed to prey on them. i spend most of my time in advocacy for victims of official crime and it is depressing how few victims can be helped. In one area alone there have been some six thousand victims and only three winners. Just educating them is harder than pulling teeth because the vast majority are incapable of accepting just how corrupt is everything official, including the legislature, the bureaucracy, the legal – judicial racket, and the mainstream media. By the time the average victim gets their head around the reality, it is too late.

  7. Andrew Smith

    Seen the symptoms of PR strategy already aka classic PR or negative agitprop.

    Media started spraying round multiple factors or white noise knowing most people have become conditioned to either focus on one factor, or a binary, creating confusion and precluding comprehension, understanding and acceptance of any broad strategic solution requiring multiple factors to be addressed.

  8. Ken Fabian

    That we get extremes of drought, fire and flood are reason to be more concerned not less. That the climate is naturally susceptible to change is reason to be more concerned not less. Extreme conditions with another 3 or 5 degrees (and if Morrison’s team get their way they will support selling enough coal and gas for that) are properly alarming – as opposed to “alarmist”, which means getting false alarmed. The real climate system, that is not permanently stable, is like the vehicle with bad steering – more likely to run off the road to crash and burn.

    Whilst calling out others (Greens/climate activists) for blaming and finger pointing, LNP rhetoric, from Morrison down, hypocritically includes blaming and finger pointing at Environmentalists, mostly without naming them, for stopping (somehow but unspecified how) burning off. All done in perfect synchrony with the RW commentators that do name them. Mostly the mainstream media lets them get away with it – where they are not active partisan participants.

    Morrison’s team are, at best, “honest” climate science deniers who negligently threw the IPCC reports in the bin without reading, but lack enough basic honesty or courage to say what they really think. Those that know better but go along with it are not better; they just use a different kind of dishonesty. The former justify that dishonesty by creating an imaginary Global Climate Cult that attacks them if they do say what they really think, so even their lies become the fault of climate activists and the ABC upsetting quiet Australians with their “hysteria”. The latter justify their lies of omission as political pragmatism and party loyalty.

    The bottom line for the LNP is that it is always the fault of others – extremists and activists; if greenies didn’t keep going on about it they wouldn’t be forced – Forced – to lie!

  9. Khaled

    A brilliant and generous article in that you’ve deciphered that grub and painted him.
    He is far worse that just empty and fraudulent.

    Great article.

  10. Keith

    A study just released has identified the relationship between climate and weather using very intricate mathematics. Comment made on basis of Craig Kelly having been named a fool in relation to his views in relation to the bush fires. Kelly knows better than scientists with PhDs as does Morrison, Taylor and the vast majority of the LNP. We can assume Kelly obtained his qualifications from the back of a Kelloggs Cornflakes packet.



    As stated before, if your wish is to kill people, destroy businesses and infrastructure you take the LNP approach of business as usual. Australia exports very significant amounts of fossil fuels, the emissions created cause temperature increase. We have not reached 1.5C yet. The new mines and extensions to old coal mines will have an impact on future bushfires. Scientists working for Exxon decades ago taking into account the anticipated level of emissions forecast that we would reach 1.5C by 2030.

  11. Ken Fabian

    Totaram – the bait and switch mixing up of what ignites fires and underlying flammability from record low rainfall and record high temperatures – climate change – is another staple feature of RW commentary on this issue. No doubt some fires were deliberately lit, others were carelessness and others were not ignited by humans at all, but by dry lightning – like 2 out of 3 of recent serious fires around and near me.

    No surprise given the track record that they stoop so low – the entirety of Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking on climate is founded on misrepresenting and misleading – but it is still a surprise how many otherwise intelligent people will limbo down in imitation.

  12. Michael Taylor

    I agree. Outstanding article.

  13. Matters Not

    So why is it, that some (perhaps only a minority) can see through this supposed fog of lies, half-truths, misleading statements, propaganda and the like while others can’t? Is it traceable to genetic makeup? Is it related to intelligence (or lack of same)? Education? Reading material – like the Murdoch publications? What?

    And if it’s the fault of the individual, then why do we place such faith in democracy? Or maybe we don’t? Perhaps the natural order of ‘government’ is the rule of Plato’s philosopher king(s) (or equivalent)? Or do we have that already?

    One thing’s for sure – what we have doesn’t seem to be working too well. Perhaps we need someone more in touch with the Almighty? Or is that a large part of the problem? You know – the light is supposedly on but no-one is ever home. (And never is.)

  14. wam

    wow ‘I’m not writing this for you’.
    Who them, should receive your fine words?
    I know many deniers but not one of them thinks climate change is not a proven natural process, Indeed many attribute it to their god.
    Presumably the people you are writing for already accept man’s interference with the natural process?
    The mentality of deniers fit with my ypung nephew. Sent up to the roof in victoria to clean the gutters he did just that wiped the outside and left the leaves and twigs alone.we assumed that a boy born at the turn of the century would know what ‘clean the gutters’ meant and why it needs to be done. There is a considerable % of people like him???
    Stupid is an apt description but we should have explained what was required??
    ps the pictures of the road, from my daughter, showed conditions akin to the smog of past centuries, assuming people here are old enough??(.

  15. Stephengb

    Bloody good article

  16. Keith

    Good article Dave.

    Apart from having virtually no policy on climate change, the LNP have no compassion and social justice issues is a likely storm coming our way. Prior to re-reading your article, I had a look at Craig Kelly’s face book page, there were photos of people clearly in great distress the quote Kelly used was …” We are seeing a huge amount of misinformation relating to these fires.”
    One photo depicted a child wearing a gas mask standing in water and nursing a koala with flames in the background. The other showed a woman nursing three children up to her chest in water Most likely sitting next to a jetty or bridge with the photo colour tinged by the colours of smoke and flames. The source Kelly quoted being the Australian. Under the photos is the caption “Bogus bushfire images do the rounds”

    Without reading the article it was an extremely upsetting comment on the photos shown … do they not understand that the fires have terrorised people? Absolutely no compassion expressed in those few words Kelly quoted. Those photos told a story, yes they were emotive, but decent people would not be seeing those photos as misinformation.

    To me it represents the uncaring nature of many LNP politicians. If they cared they would be creating a real policy on climate change.

  17. Zathras

    The Murdocracy’s deliberate attempt to deflect the conversation away from climate change onto greenies has paused and the new target of arsonists is well underway and very much alive on social media.

    I wonder if they will ever mention those hazard reduction attempts that “got away” – like Gosper’s Mountain, Margaret River and Wilson’s Promontory just to name a few – that caused so much damage? It’s a potentially dangerous procedure with a narrowing window of opportunity to be undertaken but pyromaniacs are a much softer target.

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