Scott Morrison’s Latest Bushfire Press Conference Yet Again Demonstrated His Woeful Inadequacy

Scott Morrison has fronted a press conference this afternoon, but his comments lack the empathy and commitment to real change we expect from a Prime Minister at a time of crisis.

Scott Morrison's 2 January presser blasted online

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Today’s press conference from Scott Morrison about the ongoing bushfire crisis shows that the Prime Minister is entirely out of touch with the concerns of the electorate.

The online press conference has been swift and brutal, with people lambasting the PM on various news outlets’ live-streams of the conference for his lack of empathy or action to address not only the growing crisis, but the underlying causes of the preternaturally long bushfire season (namely, climate change and cuts to funding for emergency services).

While the press conference was seemingly an effort by Morrison to stamp out growing discontent among Australian citizens about the federal government’s woeful inaction as the death toll and loss of homes and animal life rises, people have already called for the PM to step aside.

The Prime Minister used the conference to list the efforts of emergency services, but not to promise any further assistance from the Federal Government. Instead he promised vague “support” to ‘operational and recovery efforts’.

He also described the “tragedy” of the situation in Cobargo, a NSW town in which two people died defending their homes, in terms of dairy farmers having to “pour the milk down the hill” due to a loss of power.

He then spent a considerable amount of time talking about the struggles of people stuck in traffic when trying to flee areas like the NSW South Coast, which has been declared a Tourist Leave Zone.

People have also, of course, commented on the link between the fires and a lack of government action on climate change, and Morrison’s refusal to address the issue.

Scott Morrison’s take-home message is that people be patient and place their faith in state-based emergency services.

“My simple request is to be patient, to have confidence in the state agencies that are leading the operational response on the ground. If you’re in a position where you can get yourself to safety, then please do that… If you’re in a position where you have to hold and wait, then know that there is support that will get to you. It is already on its way.”

During the press conference, Morrison also spoke about attending the funeral of volunteer firefighter Deputy Captain Geoffrey Keaton in Sydney’s Minchinbury this morning. “It was important to be able to honour his great sacrifice and his tremendous service.”

Keaton died, aged 32, while fighting the Green Wattle Creek blaze near Buxton, southwest of Sydney. The firetruck he and his fellow volunteer firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, were driving overturned on 19 December, when it was hit by a fallen tree.

Morrison also mentioned his intention to attend the funerals of O’Dwyer, and the third firefighter to die during the bushfire crisis, Samuel McPaul. McPaul, died on 30 December fighting the Green Valley blaze, east of Albury, when his truck rolled over due to extreme winds associated with fire.

You can donate to the families of Keaton, O’Dwyer and McPaul here.

While Scott Morrison’s most recent remarks are not yet available on his website, his speech to the McGrath Foundation and the Australian and NZ cricket teams at Kirribilli House yesterday – strangely dated 2 January – has been uploaded.

The speech was widely derided overnight, with people protesting the way the PM compared the efforts of cricketers with struggling rural communities and the efforts of firefighters around the country.

“This Test and this whole season has been played out against terrible events both here in Australia, and also in New Zealand with the White Island tragedy,” Morrison began.

He noted the efforts of Kiwi firefighters travelling to Australia to battle the fire, and thanked each team for wearing black armbands for people who have lost their lives in the fires. “I think it will mean a lot to their families and a lot to their mates who served alongside them in these terrible fires.”

He described the bushfire crisis as a “great challenge”, but obscured the root cause of the events, referring only to “lightning storms or whatever the cause may be”. He continued, saying that the volunteer effort, both on the fire front line or behind the scenes, “will happen against the backdrop of this test match” and that he hopes people will be inspired and encouraged by cricketers playing the New Year’s Test in Sydney.

“So it’s going to be a great Test, but the real test Australia is facing right now is out there on the fire front, and as those brave Australians go about what they do on that fire front and around the country.”

Since October, 18 people have died in the bushfires across NSW, Victoria and South Australia. Nearly 500 million animals are believed to have died in bushfires since September, according to ecologists from the University of Sydney. More than 1200 homes have been destroyed, over 5,000,000 hectares of land.