The Prime Minister has fronted the public calling for Australia to come together and addressed criticism levelled at him for taking a Hawaii holiday during the ongoing bushfire crisis.
After landing under the cloak of darkness and being whisked away on Saturday night, Prime Minster fronted media at the RFS headquarters in Sydney on Sunday morning.
Mr Morrison acknowledged that fire crews across the country were fatigued and reaching breaking point, saying they will continue to get everything they need from the Commonwealth government.
“I want to assure Australians of this because I know people are anxious and I know people in some places are rightly fearful of what is literally at their door,” he said. “And the haze and the smoke and all of these things heighten that anxiety as you think about your kids and your family and your can see the red tinge at night.”
The Prime Minister said a COAG meeting scheduled for March will look to bolster the systems in place to respond to bushfires and said the government were doing other things including rolling out disaster assistance payments for those in the worst affected areas.
“I have already put on the agenda the response capabilities for future disasters and lessons, of course, will be learned by these responses but I do know the response you're seeing right now is informed by how this work has gone on each and everyday since the last fire,” he said.
‘I accept the criticism’
Mr Morrison said he understood why people were critical of his decision to holiday in Hawaii at this time, and acknowledged that “lessons have been learned” by his office, which sought to conceal the absence from the public.
“If we had your time over again and the benefit of hindsight we would have made different decisions,” he said about the timing of the holiday.
“I am sure Australians are fair-minded and understand that when you make a promise to your children you try and keep it that as Prime Minister you have other responsibilities and I accept that and I accept the criticism and that is why Jenny and I agreed it was important that I returned.”
Morrison: ‘I have always acknowledged climate change’
The Prime Minister also sought to assure the public that his government, despite its very checkered history, has always taken the threat of climate change seriously.
“There is also been other issues that have been raised, not just about the response and the resources which I think I have addressed, but also around issues of climate policy,” he said.
Aussie bushfires big news in UK. Starting to get messages from Conservative pals 'it's embarrassing how far behind Australia is on climate change.'— Latika M Bourke (@latikambourke) December 20, 2019
“It is also been the case - our Government has always and I have always acknowledged the connection between these weather events and these broader fire events and the impacts globally of climate change.
“We must take action on climate change.”
Despite criticism about Australia’s controversial use of what’s has been described as accounting tricks to meet emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement, Mr Morrison reiterated that Australia would meet its targets.
It appears there will be no change to the Government’s position on addressing climate change.
Scott Morrison makes it crystal clear during that press conference: no change in climate change policy as a result of the bushfires #auspol— Bevan Shields (@BevanShields) December 21, 2019
“People can expect my government to do what it promised to do, what it took to the last election. I know there are some who tried to make political points and score points over these issues in the midst of these disasters and that is disappointing,” Mr Morrison said.
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