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Morrison offered ‘thoughts and prayers’ to the victims of bushfires, but he also cut funding and ignored the concerns of fire chiefs prior to the blaze.
Over the last couple of days, NSW has been set ablaze, both in the literal sense, but also in the limp immolation of political point-scoring. As of Sunday evening, 130 fires continue to burn, taking 150 properties, and sadly, three lives with it. As The Guardian noted, for the first time since ever, the greater Sydney region will face catastrophic fire danger on Tuesday, “and conditions in other parts of New South Wales could also be set to worsen.”
In response, Scott Morrison has offered “thoughts and prayers” before his adjutant, Michael McCormick started a fight with the Greens who dared to link climate change with bushfires.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been so directly and horribly impacted by these fires. https://t.co/XvgsLv4eht
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) November 9, 2019
However, all of this is background, wrapped in a photo-op. What’s worth talking about is the man holding the bucket, as a denial of climate science is an opaque reason, but his wilful indifference on a policy level is the means to this very awful end we find ourselves in.
In April and September this year, Greg Mullins, the former Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW wrote to Scott Morrison, representing 22 former fire and safety chiefs, who wanted to speak to him about their concern of climate change and the “catastrophic extreme weather events putting lives, properties and livelihoods at greater risk”, hoping to speak to the PM “within three months”.
September 16 rolled around, as Mullins sent another letter, having the issue handed off to Angus Taylor, who vaguely promised a “belated” offer to meet on October 2. Mullins expressed regret as Taylor’s office failed to “grasp the urgency of the matter”. Mullins also noted that Taylor palmed him off to the Minister for Drought, David Littleproud.
The latter, according to the letter, made no attempt to schedule a meeting.
Mullins wrote: “My fellow emergency service leaders and I are deeply concerned that we are not adequately prepared.”
Sandwich between those two letters came July, and the Morrison government’s decision to cut 35% from the budget of the NSW branch of Fire and Rescue.
According to the Fire Brigade Employees Union, “We have fewer firefighters now than we did eight years ago. Our trucks are old. We need more specialist equipment, not less. Some of our existing stations desperately need updating. We need safe protective uniforms and safe (sic) equipment. We need training. We need support after traumatic events. There is no fat to cut…a significant amount has been taken from the ‘expenses’ budget – which is largely made up of our wages.”