Fiddling while Australia burns

Sometime in the future when Australia is finally taking real and meaningful action on climate change by reducing emissions across the board (and hopefully we aren’t all suffering a reduction in quality of life due to the compressed timeframes and drastic action required to obtain a result), it would be worth considering if Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ‘secret’ trip to Hawaii while unprecedented and catastrophic bushfires were blazing around the country at the end of 2019 was partly to blame. It wouldn’t be the first time when someone goes on leave that an analysis made of the personal bravado of the holder of the position is balanced against the actual worth of their contribution, with the latter demonstrated to be seriously lacking.

In addition to the problems we identified before Christmas, the media looked around for more issues Morrison left unattended while enjoying himself and probably helping himself to some ‘bargains’ at the Ala Moana Center in Waikiki. It didn’t take them long to work out ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ was accurate on more than one level.

The ‘climate change’ protests continued while Morrison was away including the optics of a 13 year old being manhandled by NSW Police in a protest outside the Prime Minister’s official Sydney residence at Kirribilli. If Morrison didn’t have cause for concern about the images of the country he claims to love drying out and burning prior to leaving, he should have pressed the panic button when acting PM McCormack claimed that some of the catastrophic bushfires on the eastern seaboard were caused by self-igniting cow pats rather than the raping and pillage of the environment.

This left the door open for Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese (who may have been ‘on leave’ but stayed in Australia) to question Morrison’s refusal to take any real action on climate change with The Guardian asking if Morrison’s ‘she’ll be right’ attitude was correct, clever or even realistic. Hand in hand with the bushfires from hell is the related issue of drought with a number of larger and smaller communities across the country either running low or completely out of drinking water. It has been noted in at least one media outlet that charities rather than government are making the effort to shift water to areas that need it.

Morrison returned from Hawaii eventually and attempted an apology
“I deeply regret any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time,”
However, as Michelle Grattan discusses in The Conversation
There’s been a lot of talk about how people don’t, or shouldn’t, begrudge Morrison a holiday. But, with the exception of family illness, a prime minister’s priorities should be the needs of his position ahead of personal matters, especially holidays. It sounds harsh, but that’s the nature of the job. And many firefighters are sacrificing holidays (and much more) this summer
It's not like Morrison and the LNP couldn’t see this coming. Climate change has been an issue for years with a small group of deniers (you’d have to ask them why they ignore the evidence of nearly all appropriately qualified scientists) making various claims to maintain the façade of ‘nothing to see here’. The Minister for the Environment (Angus Taylor) recently wrote an article published by The Australian which rehashed most of the claims. According to The Guardian,
Taylor writes that Australia is “responsible for only 1.3 per cent of global emissions, so we can’t single-handedly have a meaningful impact without the co-operation of the largest emitters such as China and the US.”
So The Guardian asked an expert
Prof Frank Jotzo, director of the Centre for Climate and Energy Policy at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, told Guardian Australia: “I would characterise [Taylor’s article] as a selective use of statistics that make Australia’s emissions trajectory look good, when in reality it does not look good at all.”
While it is true, elimination of Australia’s 1.3% of global emissions won’t stop global climate change on its own, every little bit helps. Hugh Riminton points on the 10 Daily website
Our emissions, at less than two percent of global totals, will not be decisive in the fight. Therefore, it follows, we can change nothing. So let’s sprout new coal mines all over Queensland, and leave the issue to someone else.

And how gutless would that be?

In a nation that rightly reveres its ANZAC ideals, here’s a reminder: Australia has never beaten any deadly threat on our own.

We didn’t defeat Nazi Germany on our own.

But we did join the fight.

We didn’t defeat Japanese imperialism on our own.

But — by heaven — we were in the fight.

We did what we should be doing now. Seeking allies wherever we can find them, goading them into action, showing our willingness for the fight, and getting stuck in.
Riminton has a point. Every little bit does help. On New Year’s Eve, ABCTV turned its top rating concert and fireworks broadcast into a pitch for donations to assist the Red Cross in providing for bushfire victims. Leaving aside the question of why it should be the job of the Red Cross to provide for those affected by large scale misfortune (surely the government should be doing the heavy lifting here), the total donations at the end of the night exceeded $2million. This amount wasn’t given by one generous Australian millionaire, it was raised by people pledging $2 or $5 or $10 or perhaps more if they could afford it. While we don’t know, it’s a pretty good bet that most donations to the Red Cross via the ABC were considerably under $26,000 or 1.3% of the total value raised during the telecast. Every little bit counts, despite Morrison's regular claims that eliminating our carbon emissions (which are about 1.3% of the total) won’t achieve anything. It is kind of ironic that the community reaction to a catastrophic event caused by our government’s failure to act disproves the very claim the government makes to justify its lack of action, isn’t it?

As an aside, the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal (as well as a number of other worthwhile appeals) continues to accept donations as the need to support those affected by bushfires will continue far beyond the recovery being newsworthy.

Morrison can’t market himself out of this one. It is said that George W. Bush’s Presidency never recovered from his apparent lack of interest in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Morrison needs to make a heroic conversion to belief in and actual progress on reduction of emissions as well as addressing the reality of climate change. The alternative is Morrison will be always remembered as the Prime Minister that fiddled around in Hawaii while Australia burnt to the ground.

What do you think?

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Phil Pryor


Australia directly emits c. four times what the population level suggests, at c. 1.3 n of world emissions. But, we are responsible through exports of gas and coal for at east 2.2 to 2.4 of global emissions. Disgrace. Shame. Outrage.



From Prime Minister PM to Prime Nero PN?



The clp are good a dumping leaders when overseas. Japan seems the hoodoo destination. Moylan’s antics on qa showed how ludicrous these people are and how easy it would be to get people to laugh at them. Labor should have been ridiculing the pricks since booby voted with the rabbott and Gillard dumped the lemon.



@ Phil Pryor - I can't find the reference at the moment but it has amused me for a while that one of the Coalition's 'climate warriors' can claim that exporting gas is a good thing for Australia as it reduces others emissions, yet won't consider the emissions from coal that we export.

@ Jim - did he burn his chances of being a long term PM at the same time?

Yes Wam, Moylan certainly scored an 'own goal' last night. Hopefully the vision will be stored and used appropriately in the future. 


How many umbrellas are there if I have two in my hand but the wind then blows them away?