A coalition of former state emergency services chiefs has vowed to hold a national summit on the factors leading to Australia’s bushfire crisis, but say they will “go it alone” if Prime Minister Scott Morrison doesn’t come to the table himself.
Emergency Leaders for Climate Action today redoubled their efforts to discuss the ongoing fires with Morrison, who has avoided the 29-strong group and their calls to recognise climate change as a major contributor to the disaster.
“We’ve asked the Prime Minister repeatedly to meet. He’s declined to do that,” former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins said.
Mullins said the group has spoken with Federal Water Minister David Littleproud and Federal Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor, but can’t wait forever for Morrison to join the discussion.
“It falls to us, because of that leadership vacuum, to call an emergency bushfire summit after this summer, when the experts, the firefighters are available and taking a well-earned rest.”
The group, which comprises former fire and emergency leaders from across the nation, has criticised the Federal Government’s approach to the bushfire crisis. In particular, they have demanded further action to limit Australia’s carbon emissions and a boost in funding to frontline emergency services.
“Australia is burning while we turn a blind eye to the driving force, which is climate change and a warming planet,” Mullins said
“It’s no good saying we are only a small emitter of carbon dioxide. It’s simply not true.”
Mullins said Australia lacked “moral leadership” at a recent global climate summit in Madrid, which saw Australia singled out as a nation which stifled progress towards more ambitious emission reduction targets.
Six people have died in blazes engulfing huge portions of NSW, while hundreds of properties have been destroyed. Sydney has been plagued by smoke from blazes to the city’s west, driving air quality to ‘Hazardous’ levels.
Last week, Morrison himself was briefly trapped in a Sydney building after indoor smoke alarms shut down an elevator system. He was in Sydney for a press conference – on the government’s new religious freedoms bill – but found time to defend the federal response to the fires.
While the nation braces for potential heatwaves across much of the south-east region, The Australian reports Morrison himself is on an international holiday until Thursday.
SBS captured the full press conference, which can be viewed below:
Watch now as ex-fire and emergency chiefs announce an emergency bushfire summit, even if the Prime Minister refuses to join them. https://t.co/NZF2ZKEmiJ
— SBS News (@SBSNews) December 16, 2019