By Ben Wilson
Australia burns and Scott Morrison treats those who a are suffering with the greatest of disrespect. He comes across as uncaring. Instead of being there, offering whatever it takes to help people through the dark times, as one would expect of a real leader, a visible lack of concern is being showed.
It doesn’t stop here. The firefighters putting themselves on the line and get contempt, instead of praise for their tremendous effort to save lives and property.
Some of them have been raising their voices. Last month, a group of former emergency chiefs in Queensland and NSW came out publicly, to state the connection between drought, the bushfires and the climate crisis.
They are now urning in every state of Australia and the response has not changed much. More than 680 homes have been destroyed so far. Agriculture has been seriously disrupted, local economies face very hard times ahead, and forecasters pedict a major heatwave.
This is not just about Scott Morrison. He is a personification of a government and a political class moving to where it would have been unthinkable a few years ago. This is a class living apart from the rest of Australia, knows very little about it, and doesn’t want to know anyway.
Its obsession is with its own narrow field of interests. These are running Australia as its own corporation, using other people as resources to the used or discarded, instead of treating them as human beings, and bringing this in as the way to run government.
The model fits into the dogmatic cutting of all possible costs and the budget surplus. Everything the government does is within the limits set by this, and opening political opportunism. There’s no room for sentimentality and compassion here.
Government is not a corporation though. It is too complex for this. Government boils down to a social contract between the competing demands of a society. Break this and the consensus starts to fall apar, and this is exactly what is going on.
The mishandling of the bushfires and the reaction to this, is the starkest representation of this problem today, contributing to the growing distrust of the political system.
Caught between the corporate style and the reaction to it, back in October, the Morrison government decided syave off criticism of its handlingof the drought by handing over $1.6 billion supposed to go to the disabled through the NDIS for drought relief.
It failed to gain political capital. It was to transparently obvious, and counter to the human values most Australians believe are important.
The Morrison government did not only try to deny the connection between the drought, the bushfires though October and November. It went one further, to do all it could to block mention of this inconvenient truth.
The strategy proved to be foolish, and the consequence of being locked into a narrow and sectarian view of the world and the business of government.
Affected individuals and communities are angry at being let down. That many of those who are suffering are part of the Coalition’s pollical base hasn’t made any difference. They still find their pleas for more help are falling on deaf ears.
Threatened by the strength of the negative reaction, Morrison has had to finally admit, although grudgingly, that there is a connection between the fires and global warming.
Local individuals and communities are focused on fighting the fires and staying alive for now. But it is inevitable that there will emerge the beginnings of an organised fight for some changes.
Emergency Leaders for Climate Action has come into existence. The group has taken on the task of organising a bushfire crisis summit for next March. It will involve fire service workers, Indigenous people, the military, the insurance industry and local governments. The Prime Minister will be invited to attend and support the goal of building a fire management plan to meet the new situation.