We are a nation under siege from fires, undoubtedly exacerbated by climate change, yet the silence and complete inaction at a federal level is deafening.
Whilst the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been busying himself at sporting events and evening drinks parties with Lachlan Murdoch, the country burns.
Individual acts of bravery are everywhere; from the woman who stopped in the smoke haze to pick up a severely injured koala using her own clothing to protect him, to the firefighters who have protected life and property, often when their own livelihoods were at risk.
The states are scrambling to respond to the magnitude of these fires but the grit of grass-roots movements and organisations is astounding. Wildlife rescue groups are working round-the-clock, inundated with enquiries and offers of assistance. Generosity to displaced people through offerings of free accommodation, shelter for pets and livestock and donated goods helps to restore faith in humanity. The silence and inaction from our national leaders does not.
Their continued refusal to progress beyond a climate change ‘debate’ is gobsmacking. There is no debate. The scientific facts are in. The living proof is well and truly in.
Australia has long been a country of extremes and is familiar with bushfires and drought. But this is different. Weather events at both ends of the scale are more extreme and more frequent. Droughts are lasting longer, storms are heavier and fires are so intense they create their own weather patterns.
Our monitoring and responses to bushfire may have improved due to technology, but there is a limit to the human interventions available in response to these infernos.
Multiple people have died and hundreds of homes have been lost. There will be more – it is only December. Native fauna, already under threat from over-development is now in even more precarious. Insurance claims are slow. Families can be effectively rendered homeless for several years after such disaster.
Some people do not have any insurance – it is so expensive these days that it precludes many. These experiences ruin people financially, emotionally and physically.
The scars remain in the form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder long after the flames have gone and the lone food voucher has been used. Family violence spikes as does suicide.
Despite this utter tragedy, we are met with national silence. Where is the policy and action? Where is the empathetic leadership that comforts people and makes them feel acknowledged in their time of despair?
The Prime Minister, at a Business Council of Australia event a few weeks ago, indicated his government’s intention to try and reduce the time it takes businesses to get environmental approvals for large-scale projects. He also suggested that the Australian men’s cricket team results might improve the spirits of those living through the fires.
Where is someone going to watch the cricket when their house has burned down, they are living out of plastic bags and their insurance company is disputing their claim?