Prime Minister Scott Morrison abruptly called time on a press conference today, after facing pointed questions about Australia’s responses to climate change and his personal reaction to the ongoing bushfire crisis.
The PM’s decision to smokebomb capped off a day of media pressure aimed at the Coalition leader, which saw him prevaricate on whether he truly recognises how carbon emissions are tied to the blazes – and whether Australian industry should shoulder some of the blame.
Speaking to reporters this morning, Morrison touched on developments in Iran before warning of adverse fire conditions in New South Wales and Victoria. He then faced a slew of questions about Australia’s carbon emissions, and whether he believes horrific fire seasons will become more common thanks to climate change.
It didn’t go so well, with Morrison visibly miffed at the suggestion.
“Look, we have covered that a number of times now,” Morrison said, adding “The links and implications have been acknowledged.”
When pressed on whether he believes community sentiment on Australia’s carbon emissions has changed thanks to the crisis, Morrison said he believes folks want him “100% focused” on the immediate response effort.
Finally, when asked if he could admit his initial response to the national disaster could have been better, Morrison leaned on the unexpected rollout of Australian Defence Force personnel and the government’s new $2 billion relief fund.
Read: no, he did not accept responsibility for a sluggish response to the crisis.
“The government’s responding to an unprecedented crisis with an unprecedented level of support,” he said.
He then called time on the whole conference. The whole showing caused some journos to reflect on his apparent unwillingness to face tough questions about his leadership.
In his media conference right now, still ongoing, Scott Morrison literally just refuses to answer questions he doesn’t like. Sorry, but this fact needs to keep being called out over and over and over again. It’s not good enough. Not even close. #auspol
— Peter van Onselen (@vanOnselenP) January 9, 2020
Morrison twice refuses to answer questions about bringing back a national energy guarantee by saying he is 100% focused on the fire response today.
The first half of this press conference was about the Iran situation.
Either you can do two things at once or you can't.
— Helen Davidson (@heldavidson) January 9, 2020
Those aren’t the only tough questions Morrison has faced recently, either.
Earlier today, ABC AM host Kim Landers asked Morrison if Australia should adopt more ambitious emission reduction targets in response after the fires. The PM was adamant Australia is playing its part – a claim long disputed by climate scientists – before suggesting any further changes wouldn’t reduce Australia’s fire risks one bit.
Any inquiry into the fires “would need to look at the full breadth of factors that are relevant,” Morrison said.
“And of course, we’d review any recommendations that came from that… but the suggestion that somehow Australia’s emissions reductions are directly linked to fire events in Australia. Well, that’s just not true.”
Last night, 7.30 host Michael Rowland also challenged Morrison on climate policy. Morrison demurred, saying “I’m sorry Michael, it is the policy of the government to accept these events at a global level,” but defended the government’s current stance.
“You cannot link any individual, single emissions reduction policy of a country, whether it’s Australia or anyone else, to any specific fire event,” Morrison said.
“I mean, that’s just absurd.”
The takeaways from all of this: don’t ask Morrison about climate change, don’t suggest Australia could do more, and certainly don’t claim our own carbon emissions contributed in even the slightest way to the ongoing devastation.
If you do, he might just disappear from his own press conference.Image: Paul Braven / AAP Image