Vacation in Hawaii, support for the coal industry… Why the Australian Prime Minister is lambasted over his fire management

Scott Morrison announced Saturday the use of 3,000 military reservists to fight the flames. A decision deemed late by the opposition.

The scene has toured the Australian media. Scott Morrison, who came to give his support to the inhabitants of Cobargo (New South Wales), bruised by the fires ravaging Australia, on Thursday 2 January, received a cold reception. Firefighter refused to greet Liberal Prime Minister, resident only agreed to shake hands if government “gave more resources to (their) firefighting agency “. And to insist, under the embarrassed gaze of the head of government: “So many people have lost their homes … We need more help!”

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The scene sums up the growing resentment towards Scott Morrison, at a time when the fires have already ravaged eight million hectares in Australia and killed at least 24 people. Franceinfo returns to three reasons for the anger towards what the population and the press call “ScoMo”.

Because he went on vacation to Hawaii when the fires were raging

“Where the bloody hell are you?” (“Where the hell are you then?”). This slogan, taken from a publicity campaign from the mid-2000s intended to promote tourism in Australia, was recycled in mid-December to question Scott Morrison, who was spending his family vacation in Hawaii. The leader's heavenly destination was criticized as much as his absence, when the flames ravaged the east of the country.

Returning in disaster after the death, Thursday, December 19, of two volunteer firefighters who were fighting against the flames, Scott Morrison was confused with apologies to his people.

I understand that people were shocked that I was on vacation with my family while theirs was in great pain.Scott Morrison

“If I could go back in time, knowing what I know today, we would have made another decision”said the leader upon his return. “I am sure the Australians are fair and understand that when we make a promise to our children, we try to keep it”, he explained. But “as Prime Minister, we have other responsibilities”.

Because he is a staunch supporter of the coal industry

Bush fires are endemic to Australia. But many scientists say the record temperatures and strong winds, which made the situation worse, have been influenced by climate change. Scott Morrison is a staunch defender of the lucrative coal industry: Australia produces one-third of the world's exports of the mineral, and the sector provides jobs in key electoral districts.

Despite the circumstances, Scott Morrison reiterated that there was no question for him to initiate an energy transition at the expense of coal. “We are not going to engage in irresponsible, job-destroying and economic-damaging goals”, launched the director at the end of December on Channel 9 (in English).

I am not going to wipe off the employment of thousands of Australians by moving away from traditional industries.Scott Morrisonon the Seven Network channel

The coal sector is however very polluting. While Australia's national CO2 emissions are low compared to the major polluting countries, Australia's fossil fuel exports account for around 7% of global carbon emissions.

More generally, Scott Morrison's team has been singled out for having made statements that are frankly unfavorable for the protection of the environment. On November 11, when flames were already devastating the east coast of the country, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack assured on the radio that the political leaders who made the link between fires and global warming were nothing but “fanatical ecologists of the capital” and “crazy in the city center”.

Because his government has been slow to respond

The New york times (in English) further recalls that “ScoMo” has swept “For months (…) calls for a stronger intervention from his government, such as a vast military deployment or a symbolic declaration of national emergency”. The Prime Minister argued in particular that the fight against fires was the responsibility of the federated states. He finally changed course on Saturday, announcing the use of 3,000 military reservists to fight the flames and the release of two billion Australian dollars (1.2 billion euros) in a national environmental protection fund. .

“The road will be long, but we will be on the side of the populations during each of the stages of reconstruction”, promised the head of government. It is not certain that this call for patience is shared: the opposition to Scott Morrison has already planned demonstrations against his management of the climate crisis Friday in the main cities of the country.


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