If this massive disaster is not the time for a national response, when would be?

Genevieve Jacobs 3 January 2020 263
Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says governments should not get in each other’s way during a crisis. Photo: File.

The Prime Minister has appealed for calm during the fire crisis and says the Federal Government is doing all it can.

“What you cannot have in these situations is governments stepping over the top of each other in responding to a natural disaster like this,” he said this week.

The Federal Government has been consistent (and indeed, insistent) in saying that bushfire emergencies are a state government responsibility. In “normal” emergencies – if such a thing still exists – the Government is correct to a significant degree.

States must request assistance. The Federal Government cannot ride roughshod over them.

But let’s reiterate the grim facts. Areas of land as large as European countries have been burned. There is no rain forecast. Communities have been razed and this weekend is likely to be as dangerous as New Year’s Eve, or worse. Seven people, likely more, have died.

There are estimates that perhaps four million animals may have died in the infernos. Surviving farm livestock and native animals alike risk thirst and starvation.

Our emergency responders are stretched beyond their limits. There will be a profound toll on their mental health and wellbeing.

This is well beyond an emergency. This is a natural disaster of unprecedented scale on the Australian continent as far as we are aware, stretching across state boundaries and with no end in sight.

NSW is the most populous and prosperous state and its resources are at breaking point. Imagine if a disaster on this scale were to happen in Tasmania? Or, God forbid, here in the ACT. Would it still be up to the state governments to respond?

But we’ve had not so much as a COAG meeting.

If it’s not the business of the Federal Government to lead a response now, then when would it be?

We have heard from Defence Minister Linda Reynolds about the ADF’s role in logistical support. She described “significant behind the scenes support” for frontline firefighters. And from Emergency Services Minister David Littleproud, also warning against “kneejerk reactions”.

Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton

Then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Home Affairs/Immigration Peter Dutton. Photo: Wikicommons.

But there’s been a notable, almost hushed, silence from one other major Government figure: Peter Dutton.

The Home Affairs mega ministry was set up by Malcolm Turnbull in 2017 under Minister Dutton’s leadership and is seen as a key portfolio for a very powerful politician.

Described by Mr Turnbull as “the most significant reform of Australia’s national intelligence and domestic security arrangements” in more than 40 years, the super department combined the Immigration and Border Protection Department with parts of the Attorney-General’s, Infrastructure and Social Services departments.

Those parts include responsibility for Emergency Management. To quote from the Departmental website: “We lead the Australian Government disaster and emergency management response. We work to build a disaster-resilient Australia that prevents, prepares, responds and recovers from disasters and emergencies.”

It is difficult to see how and where this has happened during the unfolding crisis, and even harder to discern Mr Dutton’s role in this major national emergency.

Home Affairs could initiate a Crisis Coordination Centre, bringing together public and private infrastructure into a co-ordinated national emergency response across multiple sectors including telecommunications, energy supplies, transport, banking and retail, and many other areas where a strategic national approach could help alleviate the carnage.

Perhaps this is already happening. Perhaps not. We’ve certainly heard nothing to indicate that it is. And this emergency has been building inexorably for months now: nobody’s been caught on the hop without adequate time to respond.

So if now is not the time, when?

This is an awkward crisis for a government that does not want to discuss climate change because, they say, our focus should be on the disaster – as though we can’t all walk and chew gum at the same time.

It’s an awkward crisis because there’s no barnstorming piece of legislation that can “fix” the problem and work well in sound bites.

There’s no easy solution for this one.

But when we went to the polls in 2019, we elected a government for all Australians, for all of the time. That is what we asked Scott Morrison and his ministry to do for us. It’s time to see that leadership in action.

If not now, when?

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263 Responses to If this massive disaster is not the time for a national response, when would be?
Acton Acton 11:26 am 05 Jan 20

Interesting article from an ecological criminologist and sustainability scientist at Monash University estimating that 87% of fires are deliberately or accidentally lit.
The fires will be more intense if hazard reduction burning has not been carried out because of government imposed regulations and failure to maintain fire trails reducing access to remote areas.

    astro2 astro2 6:42 pm 05 Jan 20

    Without wishing to be too critical of this previous study by a criminologist (and i assume it applies to all fires (including bushfires?) most of the current bushfires were apparently not lit by arsonists. Also when you state that “hazard reduction burning has not been carried out because of government imposed regulations…” do you know which government you are talking about here? And would you have any evidence to back up the claim? Because the Vic and NSW governments have both been carrying out hazard reduction burns. I know that it is important to you that there be no link to this national disaster and climate change but both sides of politics, Labor and Liberal, claims that it is. So do the RFS.

    Acton Acton 4:30 am 06 Jan 20

    Any ‘science’ that cannot deal with alternative theories, views and facts is not a true science but more a faith based religion requiring unquestioning adherence from its followers.

    rationalobserver rationalobserver 10:34 pm 07 Jan 20

    http://www.oism.org/pproject/ …Global warming Petition Project – 31,000 scientists who oppose, in whole or in part, IPCC findings and conclusions

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 7:13 am 08 Jan 20

    I am waiting for a response from the warmists on this. While it’s easy to call an uneducated, unqualified person like me a vandal climate denier, it will be difficult for the same treatment to be applied to 31,000 scientists.

    astro2 astro2 9:22 am 08 Jan 20

    Easily debunked, try not to be too gullible:

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:47 am 08 Jan 20

    Since when does a scientist have to be an expert in climatolgy to have an opinion in this debate? The foremost “climatologist” in Australia is Tim Flannery and his discipline is mammalogy (whatever that means).

    Huffpost (whoever they are) can’t even get thenumbers right (30,000 as against 31,000).

    chewy14 chewy14 4:48 pm 08 Jan 20

    Yep, too many of these lists are dodgy and basically meaningless propaganda.

    The same occurred in November with the 11000 scientists calling for a climate emergency to be declared, when any look at the list of names showed not only clearly fake people (Mickey Mouse from the Mickey Mouse institute for the Blind) but students and people with no background in climate science.

    They are meaningless appeals to authority trying to convince people using straight logical fallacies.

Frank Booth Frank Booth 8:14 am 05 Jan 20

This article details the type of work Morrison and his backers are best at. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/nasty-saga-you-nearly-missed-20091025-hem5.html

Frank Booth Frank Booth 8:10 am 05 Jan 20

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/04/death-of-the-salesman-how-scott-morrisons-pr-nous-deserted-him-in-the-bushfires. Let's hope so!

Frank Booth Frank Booth 10:52 am 04 Jan 20

You have all forgotten that the money we could be spending on our own national firefighting equipment (planes etc) is better utilised purchasing fighter jets and other military hardware that will be obsolete by the time that it becomes "operational". Remember everyone, this money is spent to enhance our national security.

Jozef Sirec Jozef Sirec 12:47 am 04 Jan 20

Let's have another executive meeting and discuss how we will conduct more efficient executive meetings....oh, and the options list for our now BMW 640's as the agenda items. Secretary....can we get some samiches and lattes in here please

Susannah Boyd Susannah Boyd 12:22 am 04 Jan 20

Further to our chat today Rachel Swain 😡🤦‍♀️

Ingrid Mears Ingrid Mears 10:16 pm 03 Jan 20

It is a National disaster. Wake up Scumbo

rationalobserver rationalobserver 9:43 pm 03 Jan 20

EX fire chiefs, some of whom are only experienced in urban fires, part of a group lead by Tim Flannery and funded by get up. Not quite as credible as being made out, eh?

    astro2 astro2 10:41 am 04 Jan 20

    You’re hilarious…:) 🙂 Keep up the funny one-liners; we all need cheering up at the moment. PS Don’t forget the World Bank and the UN – they’re in on it too…:)

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 10:58 am 04 Jan 20

    Why not test your conspiracy theory that climate change is a hoax? Organise a rally so the “silent majority” can voice the view, shared with you, that climate change is a fabrication of the looney left greenies. I’m sure that paragon of social conscience, Alan Jones, and his right at night colleagues on Sky would give you wide ranging free publicity. So come on, rationalobserver, rally the troops and take on these charlatans who are brain washing our youth. Take to the streets and get the real truth out there.

    rationalobserver rationalobserver 11:28 pm 04 Jan 20

    Just stating facts…

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:14 am 05 Jan 20

    Warmist narrative can’t deal with facts. It’s easier to call us vandal climate deniers.

    astro2 astro2 3:52 pm 05 Jan 20

    Actually, no, you’re not stating any facts, you’re stating your opinion…but as your opinion is so hilarious I guess we could excuse your confusion on this occasion.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:05 pm 05 Jan 20

    Sure, my claim that you can’t deal with facts is my opinion but the subject matter in this instance is fact: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/tim-flannery-climate-group-funding-exfire-chiefs-going-it-alone/news-story/fd55e5bd69cc54288e071d07808438c9

    paulmuster paulmuster 6:57 pm 05 Jan 20

    Im sorry and the point is what exactly? That funding from Getup, leadership from Tim Flannery and support from fire subject matter experts somehow discredits their warning of the “summer from hell”?

    I’m with grumpy mark. All of you deniers need to stop hiding bedind troll monikers and show your unifiction in the streets just like the hundreds of thousands who go together specifically to protest against your ignorance to science.

    astro2 astro2 7:11 pm 05 Jan 20

    Yeah right, The Australian, Conspiracy Theory Central. I rest my case. You’re obviously a subscriber. Your faith in conspiracy theories is stilly funny (that’s an opinion BTW, not a fact.)

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:59 am 06 Jan 20

    Actually, the only press I subscibe to is the Canberra Times (for the last 30 years) which since the recent takeover has become even more left that I thought was possible.
    I rarely read the Australian but I watch Sky News more often than ABC TV. I like to get news from all sides so I can form my own opinions.

    You are paranoid if you suggest that there are conspiracy theories coming out of the article that we are discussing.

    astro2 astro2 7:59 pm 06 Jan 20

    Capital, you do realise that the link you posted isn’t able to be read don’t you? It’s locked and you have to be a subscriber to read.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 9:31 pm 03 Jan 20

When this current disaster is over, there will be a lot of work in rebuilding.

Beyond that priority work, there would be much to be said for an increased Roads to Recovery Program to do all that can reasonably be done to ensure much better and safer (in all senses of that word) roads for the sorts of communities which have been shown to be very exposed by these fires.

There should also be specific and substantial ongoing funding to maintain these roads – not just the road surfaces, but keeping them prudently clear of potentially dangerous trees and other hazards.

There could also be federal funding for other important maintenance work – most particularly for fuel load management by means other than burning (given the risks and limitations on that).

Aside from the safety and preparedness benefits, these measures would help with the high rates of unemployment and underemployment in affected areas – which is probably a factor in some of the anger on display over recent days.

Dot The Possum Dot The Possum 9:04 pm 03 Jan 20

Wow, this is still going, as are the like comments on social media. Always blaming the most senior politician. I really think that, as a nation, we have daddy problems.

    rationalobserver rationalobserver 9:26 am 04 Jan 20

    No, we have an honesty problem. People are allowing their political persuasions to influence their objectivity. People are using weather to push a climate change agenda.
    Heaven forbid that the greens were in power, a different paradigm would be seen.

Phil Hopkins Phil Hopkins 6:38 pm 03 Jan 20

No Leadership

No Humanity

Angry_of_Devonport Angry_of_Devonport 5:57 pm 03 Jan 20

The federal government should not be waiting for the states to ask for help, equipment etc. They should be saying to the states “What do want, what do you need” and be ready to mobilise these as soon as possible.

    rationalobserver rationalobserver 1:22 pm 04 Jan 20

    Or maybe holding them account as to how they prioritised their GST funding perhaps?

Dean Correia Dean Correia 5:50 pm 03 Jan 20

Unfortunately the majority voted him and his party another 4 years so we are stuck with him.

Robyn Plany Robyn Plany 4:32 pm 03 Jan 20

this should never have been left for the States to ask for help, in times like this the PM should over ride the States and the navy etc should have been sent sooner, saying the States had to ask for help is stupid,

AbbDon Helen AbbDon Helen 4:31 pm 03 Jan 20

The further Dutton is away from this the better ...

Acton Acton 3:59 pm 03 Jan 20

Why no mention of the arsonists lighting these fires?
People, not climate change are responsible for the fires.
Only rain will put out the fires, not politicians, not journalists and not opportunistic greenies.

    astro2 astro2 5:13 pm 03 Jan 20

    HI Acton, when you say “why no mention of the arsonists” you are incorrect. There have been news reports where this occurs. However the RFS has also said most of these fires haven’t been started by arsonists. They have been caused by unprecedented dry and hot conditions. I’m afraid that it is climate change. I know this must be upsetting for you as you obviously have been convinced that, somehow, climate change is “left wing” when it isn’t any “wing” at all. It’s science unfortunately, and now we’re all being impacted by it. Perhaps ask yourself why certain people wanted to convince you that science is “left wing”. Hope you don’t think vaccination is “left wing” too.

    rationalobserver rationalobserver 10:08 pm 03 Jan 20

    No, its weather, not climate change. Different things.

    astro2 astro2 12:43 pm 04 Jan 20

    No, the extreme drought which has caused unprecedented fires is climate change. Even the Liberals admit that one so you’re on a hiding to nothing claiming that this is just “weather”.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:53 am 05 Jan 20

    “They have been caused by unprecedented dry and hot conditions.”

    For a start the hot and dry conditions are not unprecedented. Secondly, fires will not start just because it is “hot and dry”; they need ignition and most of the current fires have been been ignited by lightning. If you attribute what you have said as coming from the RFS we have no hope.

    astro2 astro2 3:10 pm 05 Jan 20

    You may have misinterpreted what I said. Most of the fires have been ignited by lightning strikes. However the extremely prolonged dry and hot conditions have caused a situation where bushfires are unprecedented in their scale and severity. Hence the response from all levels of government. Other than that, it is unclear what point you are trying to make.

    Acton Acton 4:38 am 06 Jan 20

    There is no evidence to support your belief that ‘most of the fires have been ignited by lightening strikes’. Why are alternative theories so hard to accept?

    JC JC 9:56 pm 05 Jan 20

    Yesterday (Saturday’s) maximum temperature was certainly unprecedented.

    The time of season to get these kind of conditions is also unprecedented. And the start to the tropical monsoon is getting later each year (first cyclone to impact Australia only starting now) which in turn drives the early season high temps and lack of rain over hear is also unprecedented.

    So nah don’t buy for one moment your dismissing of the unprecedented nature of the current climate.

    Acton Acton 11:32 am 05 Jan 20

    No mention of arsonists – in this article. About 87% of bushfires are started deliberately or accidentally:

    paulmuster paulmuster 6:15 am 04 Jan 20

    OK BOOMBER… You are obviously remarkably uninformed on the topic, and I would wager that you haven’t spent a day of your life receiving any recognisable qualifications on the complexities of fire. Nonetheless, news corp successfully exploited your arrogance to make you believe you somehow deserve an opinion on a matter of science. Correct no?

    However you are right on one thing, people are indeed responsible for the fires. Specifically, the fools who turn scienctific advice into a stagnated debate about the price of managing the most severe risks that we will only increasingly face as the planet continues to cook, and loose its sequestration sinks/ natural air conditioners (i.e. forests).

    Acton Acton 4:57 am 06 Jan 20

    The arrogance exists within those who dismiss any alternative explanations inconsistent with their own faith based belief system and limited experiences. When a science cannot handle scrutiny it shows itself to be more a religion, attacking unbelievers as heretics with the same zealotry as priests defending their divine authority.

    astro2 astro2 9:41 am 07 Jan 20

    There isn’t any arrogance about accepting science of evolution, climate change or vaccination. These aren’t religious beliefs, they’re established by scientific method. It’s the same scientific method you use in your everyday life.

Leigh Wrighton-Jones Leigh Wrighton-Jones 3:53 pm 03 Jan 20

Some relevant points /improvement in coordination. Here is policy I could find but.


edge88 edge88 3:46 pm 03 Jan 20

He’s so much part of the problem, people are getting PTSD just seeing his mug on TV. By all means be inclined to head to India. Disappear.

Shane Morton Shane Morton 2:45 pm 03 Jan 20

When would be? An election of course!

stevew77 stevew77 2:39 pm 03 Jan 20

Ive spoken to a few south coast residents who have just been through the fires.

The main issue they identify is lack of hazard reduction burning over the last 10 years. As such, there was a huge amount of fuel, so the fire just became a monster.

We need to pressure councils to actually take proper steps to appropriately manage the local area. Small hazard reduction burns allow animals to escape, where as monster slike we have seen kill everything in its path.

    astro2 astro2 3:36 pm 03 Jan 20

    Hi Steve, everyone I know down the coast has said that the only change to the hazard reduction burn programme has been when climate change impacts caused the safe period to conduct the burns to become narrower. This is as a result of the extreme dryness and warmer conditions. Hazard reduction burning can only take place when it is safe to do so as i am sure you would agree.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 4:11 pm 05 Jan 20

    So what you are confirming is that Scott Morrison had absolutely nothing to do with the events that followed.

    Also, a well-respected academic recently suggested that soon “climate change” will be blamed for everything that doesn’t has a good outcome.

    astro2 astro2 7:02 pm 05 Jan 20

    Yea right, a “well-respected academic”, You will by now be aware that Scott Morrison has finally commenced a national response to the unprecedented national disaster we are currently encountering. So, I guess that negates all the pious bleating about ‘what can the PM do?” If you do live in the national capital – enjoy smoking the air.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:44 am 06 Jan 20

    No smoke in Tuggers this morning and stop banging on about “unprecedented” disasters. Read some Australian history books for goodness sake.

    astro2 astro2 8:07 pm 06 Jan 20

    Hi Capital, I’m well across Australian history. “No smoke in Tuggers this morning” gosh everything is fine then! According to measurements Canberra is still in the hazardous zone for air quality. It’s pretty futile to keep pretending we are not in unchartered and unprecedented territory now. I get that you’re trying your hardest to stick to a script that was provided to you on climate science denial. Time to face up to reality though don’t you think?

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