22 December 2019

Aloha Scotty and Jen: PM's tin ear spells danger for Government

| Ian Bushnell
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Currowan Fire

The Currowan Fire burning just along the Kings Highway west of Batemans Bay last week. Photo: Ulladulla Fire and Rescue.

It has taken the deaths of two young firefighters for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to cancel his Hawaiian holiday and apologise to the Australian people.

But it is going to take a lot longer for the political bushfire to be extinguished and the issue is likely to smoulder, particularly given the government’s reluctance to discuss the great big climate elephant in the room.

I don’t think anybody begrudges the PM taking a break at this time of the year. In more benign times, Doug Anthony would run the country from his caravan on the NSW North Coast. John Howard would make the annual pilgrimage to Hawks Nest.

The key point is not that Mr Morrison and his family went on holiday but that he chose to leave the country in the middle of an ongoing bushfire emergency, with smoke choking Australia’s biggest city and the national capital, and an unprecedented heatwave stoking fear across the nation.

The miracle man of May fixated on those ”quiet Australians” has shown a tin ear for the concerns of Australians on the fire grounds and the growing alarm across the country.

First it was the steadfast refusal to discuss man-induced climate change and global heating in the context of the fires and the extraordinary temperatures being reached and forecast.

Then his flailing Energy Minister Angus Taylor went off to the climate talks in Madrid armed with dodgy arguments about credits in the bank that contributed to the scurrilous undermining of a united approach to reducing emissions and averting the catastrophic consequences of increases in average global temperatures.

And when it was obvious the country was in for a perilous week, Mr Morrison seemed unable to show the agility and nous required to change his plans and stay in the country.

A smoky Weston Creek

New normal? A smoky Weston Creek on Friday morning. Photo: Region Media.

The situation also raises questions about his close advisers, who are there to hoist a red flag when needed, talk truth to power and avert the kind of political firestorm that has blown up.

Did not one person put his or her hand up and offer that perhaps it would, at the very least, not be a good look to carry on regardless with the pre-arranged holiday?

The problem for the Prime Minister and his government now is that many more Australians are now more viscerally aware of the consequences of a changing climate and perceive a leadership vacuum on the issue.

These past weeks the abstract notion of climate change has condensed into the hard confronting reality of what it actually means.

It’s like turning up in your own disaster movie. The shocking truth about the world we may bequeath to our children, along with the dark and slightly nervous asides about the end times has been a recurring theme of conversation.

Mr Morrison will now face growing demands for him to stare down the deniers in his own party and start building a real climate action policy, that will have to include mitigation and management strategies to deal with fire.

He is now a diminished leader who will need to forget about his May triumph, listen to his advisers or get new ones, and map out a vision to take the country forward.

But his ‘business as usual’ press conference on his return to Australia does not give great confidence.

Yet the stakes are now too high for the country, and for his own Prime Ministership, for Mr Morrison not to change tack.

Let the holiday howler be a lesson and let’s, as the PM suggests, be kind enough at this time of the year to believe he will come around when he sees the calamity before him.

For all our sakes.

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The twitterati are very exercised about this – I’m glad Andrew Barr was unequivocal on ABC 666 in supporting the PM’s right to take a break. nb this was before the firey deaths.

I see this as the equivalent of Tony Abbot’s “Knighting Prince Phillip” moment. That event in the scheme of things was a minor nothing event, that was ill-advised and badly managed and then became a very predictable media storm. It made many, many people believe he was out of touch with what the community expects and ultimately he never really recovered from it.

Morrison taking a holiday is also a minor event, ill-advised and badly managed with the same predictable result. Once again, it has made many people believe he is out of touch with community expectations. It will haunt him throughout his term and he will struggle to recover from it.

Capital Retro5:24 pm 24 Dec 19

Most who watched his interview on ABC News 24 this afternoon would disagree with your prediction. Morrison is so far ahead of anyone else in the political spectrum that it will take more than the very confected outrage that has now abated along with the bushfires.

And wasn’t it Bob Hawke in 1980 who recommended Prince Phillip for an OAM which was the highest award in the country at that time? Not a whimper from anyone back then though.

I agree that Morrison is well ahead of anyone else in the political spectrum at the moment. The fact that someone so inept and obviously out of their depth is the best option really shows how sad Australian politics has become.

Just because he is the best of a terrible bunch does not mean we should accept it. We should strive for better.

I hope for the day when a once great party has a leader that returns to the ideals that Sir Robert founded it upon.

Capital Retro11:17 am 24 Dec 19

“Ruth Foley I see a man who has been sacked for a lot of lying, stealing and fraudulent behaviour in several past jobs he’s held – not one, not two but at least five jobs, here and in NZ. People don’t change easily and now he’s in control of a whole country.”

That’s a big call. I hope for your sake that you can back it up when the writs start to fly.

Capital Retro10:58 am 24 Dec 19

“Did you call out the Qld premier for doing the exact same thing as Morrison? It is really a state issue but this woman has been overseas since the 16th Dec.”

That’s OK, she’s a Labor leader.

HiddenDragon8:30 pm 23 Dec 19

“…..will have to include mitigation and management strategies to deal with fire”

Yes to that, but as for closing down, pronto, anything to do with mining or using fossil fuels – where is the proven (not “Australia could”, “Australia might”) alternative source of export revenues to pay for all of our imports and, through taxation on mining industries, to fund a high-income government town of several hundred thousand people? The recent mid-year economic update was a reminder of how dependent the federal budget is on mining revenues.

There are some nice visions currently being painted of Australia as a “renewables superpower” – “if only our wicked, coal-loving reactionary government” (or words to that effect) would underwrite it – but with (literally) trillions of dollars sloshing around the world economy, looking for a home, if the prospects were as good as some would have us believe, there would be no need for support from Australian taxpayers, it would already be happening.

Capital Retro5:22 pm 23 Dec 19

“Most disaster movies start with the politicians ignoring the advice of their scientific advisers.”

Most disaster movies are made in Hollywood where everybody is an actor/actress including the ones playing the scientist parts.

Nailed it.

Stephen Saunders3:37 pm 23 Dec 19

That’s the point: business as usual. With total compliance from Albanese, Morrison confirms, the water and fire disasters of the past two summers mean: nothing.

Capital Retro2:08 pm 23 Dec 19

“Its called leadership”

The only translation of the word leadership on this thread is “agree with me”.

Capital Retro12:09 pm 23 Dec 19

What a lot of faux outrage this situation has become. If he did return in a hurry what would you all have expected him to do? He isn’t a firefighting “expert”. He is only a Tweet away for goodness sake if some executive decision was needed.

And he is hardly a “diminished leader” – half the people wishing him to resign (or be consumed by the bushfires) don’t even accept that he won the election so how can he be diminished if he isn’t even the leader?

By the way, as soon as he returned, the emergency status of most fires went away. How good is that!

Faux outrage? Nah, from what I’ve seen it’s genuine. As for the “he’s not a fire fighter”. Correct, Morrison isn’t. What he is is the Prime Minister of Australia. The first PM to go missing twice during the same unfolding disaster. If Morrison can find $180m to reopen Christmas Is, why can’t he find $180m to fund fire fighters? Oh, and don’t think for a moment Albo gets off lightly, he’s equally as disappointing.

Wing nut, I agree its real outrage. From people who have zero idea.

Seeing as fighting these fires is a state responsibility what exactly do you think Christmas Island has to do with it? And what exact action do you think Morrison’s presence near the fires will make?

Capital Retro9:47 am 24 Dec 19

Thank you for putting the debate back on the rails chewy 14. This thread is looking like an episode of the ABC TV opinion show The Drum where lefties dominate and furiously agree with each other while following the anti-Morrison narrative.

Yes, I’m so glad that the PM has returned so he can have photo ops with the firies, shake hands with people and pretend to do anything for what is a state responsibility.

Apparently people do really care about style over substance or actual outcomes. Ridiculous.

I find it astounding how badly his office has come out looking after this. There is no problem with taking a holiday – indeed a well thought out media strategy probably could have made it a ‘positive’ for him (though one could argue with the tiny amount of time actually spent in Canberra sitting these days, pollies hardly need a holiday).

But the ridiculous secrecy and at times absolute straight out lies of his office made a mockery of a number of reasonable requests. Trotting out dribble like national security and the like to deny any details at all once everyone knew he was actually on holidays, no announcements about acting arrangements etc etc. All seemed to strongly suggest either an incompetent staff out of their depth, or something more sinister. Was Morrison actually off to do something on his holiday somewhere (New York has been suggested) that he didn’t want Australia to know about?

I guess that’s what you get when you have clueless ‘yes men’ in your office, like most political offices these days. ‘Yes boss, would you like me to lick your boots now’….

And as always, I thoroughly enjoyed reading some of the truly laughable comments on FB about this. I always wonder as a nation how we have ended up in such a dead end place in politics, and then read some of the comments on this article. Thinking a poll on 2gb is credible, alt right nutjobs that get triggered by a 16 year old girl who is willing to stand up for her beliefs, the usual loopy left and right dribble more generally. Its little wonder we are up the creek in terms of true leadership on both sides of politics.

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