For the second time this week, I woke up with smoke in my lungs.
Sydney, a city which should be experiencing clear and sparkling skies at this time of year, is instead shrouded in a blanket of eerie, almost apocalyptic, grey haze. A grave reminder of the tragedy unfolding across the nation.
Across NSW and Queensland this year, six lives and 577 homes have been lost, with more than 420 homes wiped out in the past fortnight alone. While wildlife– including our now endangered koala populations– have been burnt to ash on the ground.
Blazes continue to surge with “severe” fire danger ratings across several locations, and heavy winds igniting fire fronts through thousands of hectares of drought-ravaged bushland.
Today, in South Australia, the situation has escalated further. The entire town of Edithburgh has been evacuated as flames angrily rage across the York Peninsula. Tasmania too, is bracing for the worst.
We’re beyond crisis point.
It wouldn’t be unreasonable then, to expect that our Prime Minister would be spending his days thinking of how we move forward. Perhaps with a new, bold policy agenda and some much-needed leadership?
Instead, the PM’s suggested antidote to those Australians currently at risk, including the emotionally fraught and exhausted fire services teams who are at the frontline of these blazes, is to watch the cricket.
Yesterday, Morrison posted a photo of himself at the Gabba Brisbane, with the caption:
“Going to be a great summer of cricket, and for our firefighters and fire-impacted communities, I’m sure our boys will give them something to cheer for.”
Going to be a great summer of cricket, and for our firefighters and fire-impacted communities, I’m sure our boys will give them something to cheer for.@GabbaBrisbane @CricketAus #AUSvPAK pic.twitter.com/iHF1mGPrAH
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) November 20, 2019
It’s hard to reconcile how a message, so utterly tone deaf, could have slipped through the net of the PM’s political advisory team. Let alone the fact that it’s still yet to be taken down.
As former Independent MP Kerryn Phelps aptly noted, the PM’s “empathy consultant” had clearly clocked off for the day.
It must be the empathy consultant’s day off
— Prof Kerryn Phelps AM (@drkerrynphelps) November 20, 2019
Others were equally quick to admonish the PM’s cringeworthy post:
Tone deaf much Scott?
— Annie Parker (@annie_parker) November 20, 2019
Mr Morrison, where should the people who’ve lost their homes and possessions plug their non-existent TVs in? A burnt gum tree? Asking for some friends. Quite a few of them. #AUSTRALIANBUSHFIRES #auspol #ClimateCrisis
— 💧Kat (@katwinstonlover) November 20, 2019
Really? That’s your message as the country burns and people are desperate for leadership on climate. Not cricket
— Patricia Barraclough 🥀 (@PMBarraclough) November 20, 2019
Australians are losing everything– their homes, their communities and in some instances, their lives; and yet, Scott Morrison thinks an impending cricket season will mend their spirits?
If our leader wants this country to have something to cheer about maybe he should start considering a drastic action plan against climate change rather than continually dodging the correlation between it and increasing bushfires.
Just last week, the Climate Council released a research paper titled ‘This is Not Normal’. It found that catastrophic bushfire conditions had been aggravated by climate change and that the nature of bushfires in Australia had changed dramatically over recent years.
Yet, this fact was rebuked (not for the first time) by Morrison this morning on ABC Radio.
“The suggestion that any way shape or form that Australia, accounting for 1.3 per cent of the world’s emissions, that individual actions of Australia are impacting directly on specific fire events, whether it is here or anywhere else in the world, that doesn’t bear up to credible scientific evidence,” he said.
He also claimed that “If anything Australia is an overachiever on our global commitments, and for 2030 we will meet those as well with the mechanisms we have put in place.”
It’s a sickening, wholly inadequate response from a Prime Minister in charge during one of the most precarious moments in Australian history.