In Rare Act Of Leadership, Scott Morrison Proposes A Royal Commission Into The Bushfires

Scott Morrison

Throughout the current bushfire crisis, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced criticism for his failure to show leadership. Just this week, his government was accused of stalling on a plan to prepare for the effects of climate change-related natural disasters.

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The fires have burned nearly 11 million hectares of land and killed an estimated billion animals. More than 2000 homes have been destroyed, while the death of a firefighter in Victoria yesterday brought the national death toll to 28.

Earlier today, Scott Morrison announced that he plans to approach Cabinet with a proposal for a royal commission into the bushfires, as well as a $76 million funding package to provide counselling to firefighters and affected members of the community.

The PM copped a grilling on the ABC’s Insiders this morning, where he defended the federal government’s response to the fires, but admitted there were things he could have done differently. One of these was his Hawaiian trip. He told host David Speers:

“In hindsight, I would not have taken that trip knowing what I know now. One of the great difficulties in any job, as you know, David, is balancing your work and family responsibilities. It had been a very busy year. I’d made a promise to my kids and we’d taken forward that break, as I explained when I came back and I thought I was very upfront about my contrition on that.”

Speers also questioned Scott Morrison on reports that the Department of Home Affairs sat on a disaster preparedness plan for more than 18 months, failing to put it in place. Morrison denied these claims and said that he has put aside $130 million to bring the plan into action, adding:

“This is one of the issues that deal with the big issues in response to climate changing and that is the resilience and the adaption that we need in our community right across the country to deal with longer, hotter, dryer seasons that increase the risk of bushfire.”

Per ABC News reports, a key issue for consideration in a royal commission would be the preparedness of states and territories to deal with bushfires. Likewise, it would address concerns that the federal government was too slow to mobilise resources such as the ADF.

Morrison said that the crisis has “pushed the constitutional authorities” of the commonwealth to the brink, adding:

“This should be one of the important steps going forward. This is the first time where I think the Federal Government has ever been in a position where we had to take this action. And to ensure that in the future it can be done in a way that is more pre-emptive posturing, that we can do that, I think, more seamlessly.”

While this is all well and good, Morrison has still not flagged any meaningful changes to Australia’s current climate policy. Without change in this area, none of the rest will matter, so I guess we’ll see how it all turns out.