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Comments Prime Minister Scott Morrison made on Q&A nine years ago could come back to haunt him as he faces a wave of criticism for taking a family holiday during Australia’s ongoing bushfire crisis.
Mr Morrison was heavily critical of then Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon after she went for dinner during the height of the Black Saturday fires during 2009, which resulted in 173 deaths and over 2000 homes destroyed.
As a guest on the panel of the ABC show in 2010, the then ambitious Liberal MP didn’t mince his words when condemning Ms Nixon’s actions as a “bad judgement call”.
“I think what's most important here gets beyond any one individual, and that is public confidence in how the reconstruction effort is taking place and while the premier may have made his call on Christine, it really is a matter for her to make a judgment whether the controversy surrounding her actions actually, at the end of the day, may well impede the ability of that organisation to get on with the job,” he said.
“Look, that was a very big event. She's clearly made a bad judgment call.
“That happens to people from time to time, but this was a very serious issue and I think there are very serious concerns in the community about exercising judgment, and it's incumbent on all of us in public life to make decisions following that in the best interests of the ongoing nature of the program.”
Nearly a decade on and with no end in sight for the ongoing bushfire crisis that has claimed six lives and destroyed more than 700 homes, the prime minister is currently on holiday with his family.
While his office has failed to comment on where he is, it is widely reported he is in Hawaii.
The ongoing bushfires have been fuelled by abnormal dry and hot conditions the Bureau of Meteorology expects to last well into the summer.
Numerous experts have linked the increase in extreme weather to climate change. The prime minister has faced extreme backlash over his inaction to reduce Australia’s carbon footprint and his backing of Australia’s coal industry.
In the wake of her actions during Black Saturday, Ms Nixon said she regretted the way she’d behaved, with the incident educating leaders on how to behave moving forward.
“I think all of us would do everything differently," she said in 2010.
Social media erupts over ScoMo’s holiday
Deputy Liberal leader Josh Frydenberg defended Scott Morrison’s holiday on Tuesday during an appearance on The Today Show, saying it was a “well deserved break”.
However social media was awash with criticism for Mr Morrison, with a string of hashtags related to his absence trending on Twitter, including #FireMorrison, #WhereTheBloodyHellAreYou and #wheresscomo.
And while Labor leader Anthony Albanese was reluctant to criticise Mr Morrison for his trip during the bushfires, Greens MP David Shoebridge didn’t hold back.
“When the country you lead is on fire you have an obligation to stick around and sort it out. Or at least put the right policies in place before you clock off. But this guy’s just in denial ... on holiday ... in denial,” he said on Twitter.
On Wednesday, over 2000 firefighters were still battling 99 fires across NSW.
The government ‘asleep at the wheel’
The Australian government has been accused of being "asleep at the wheel" when it comes to climate change as a coalition of former fire chiefs vowed to take matters into their own hands to address the bushfire crisis.
Emergency Leaders for Climate Action - a group that's now grown to include 29 former emergency services bosses - is calling for a national summit to fill the "leadership vacuum" left by the Morrison government.
At 8.30am there are 99 fires burning across NSW with more than half yet to be contained. Over 2000 firefighters will be in the field today.
Conditions are predicted to deteriorate tomorrow. What preparations are you making? What is your plan?#NSWRFS #NSWFires pic.twitter.com/PzRLtFOcBE
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 17, 2019
Former ACT Emergency Services Authority commissioner Peter Dunn says many Australians are experiencing a "horrific" start to summer with unprecedented bushfires.
"What I'm seeing is an absolute crisis in the leadership that we do not have right now in this country," he told reporters in Sydney.
"Our leadership is asleep at the wheel. In fact, in some areas, I think it's on life support."
Mr Dunn argued countries had to stop burning fossil fuels to combat climate change.
"This is not speculation - this is science," he said.
Morrison funding not enough, ex-fire chief says
Other members of the coalition offered equally stark warnings on the desperate need for action.
Former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins says the group is prepared to act if the federal government remains "missing in action".
He said firefighters - many of whom have been fighting blazes for months - are doing a "fantastic" job and should not be criticised.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison - who's currently on holiday - recently announced $11 million for aerial firefighting.
But Mr Mullins says while crews are well resourced "it's not enough ... because of climate change".
"Climate change is driving this problem to a place where you simply can't deal with it," he said.
Australia needs to step up on climate change in order to allow it to speak with "moral authority" to high-emissions countries like China, India and the United States, he added.
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