‘Merry Crisis’: Scott Morrison’s government by assertion is wearing thin

Celeste Barber didn't hold back at the Fire Fight Australia benefit concert.

Celeste Barber didn't hold back at the Fire Fight Australia benefit concert. Photo: Getty

A measure of the dreadful hole the Morrison government has dug for itself came at the weekend’s Fire Fight Australia benefit concert.

Event host and comedian Celeste Barber drew a huge cheer from the 75,000-strong crowd when she said “it’s been such a hectic time. As Aussies we bear together and look after each other – because it turns out the people at the top don’t”.

Ms Barber reinforced the message wearing a ‘Merry Crisis’ T-shirt with an image of Scott Morrison in a Hawaiian shirt and Santa Claus hat on it.

The Prime Minister has told reporters he understood why people the bushfire period “felt really raw about things”.

He then went on to trumpet the government’s response, calling out the military and a $2 billion injection into a national bushfire recovery agency.

A measure of the reaction on the ground among many victims could be summed up by the RFS volunteer Paul Parker, who made international news by telling the PM where he could go in very colourful terms.

Mr Parker told The Project all politicians give him “the sh-ts” and that “nothing any good ever comes out of Parliament”.

He said it was going to take years for fire-ravaged communities “to get over this, if they ever get over it at all”.

It will certainly take more than glib assertions from political leaders who  had to be dragged to face reality.

The $2 billion is over two years and before this predicted catastrophic fire season, there was no urgency or recognition that disaster relief arrangements were no longer fit for purpose.

If the government survives its full term – a moot point given the unresolved ructions in the Nationals with floor-crossing threats now almost a daily occurrence – there are two more fire seasons to come before the next election.

Even if the blame game between the states and Canberra can be resolved at March’s Council of Australian Governments meeting, next summer may well be just as harrowing, but Mr Morrison is promising to focus on the “resilience that is needed in these communities”.

The PM places more importance on “hazard reductions” than emissions reduction to address what he calls these climate issues.

But increasingly voters are seeing that the warnings from scientists about the consequences of doing nothing meaningful to reduce emissions are being realised.

Chief scientist Alan Finkel repeated them again last week, the point being there is no quick fix here.

But unless our government and governments worldwide seriously address this global threat within the next 30 years, the cost of doing nothing will be immense in economic and human terms.

This is something the Business Council of Australia has begun pushing much harder.

Its CEO Jennifer Westacott says setting the net zero 2050 target with planned benchmarks to get there is needed for the transition from fossil-fuel reliance.

But the Nationals are having none of it.

Their embattled leader says the scientists who make up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change don’t run Australia, the coalition government does.

This leaves the Liberal Prime Minister little option but to assert he’s doing more to keep Australians safe from climate change – when all he is doing more of is spin.

Much like the way he and his senior ministers have decided a bold assertion that the Auditor-General got it wrong is the best way to deal with his finding they mismanaged taxpayers money for their own political advantage.

Mr Morrison said on Monday he has “a thick skin”.

He and his ministers will all need one if this is all they have to offer.

Paul Bongiorno AM is a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, with 40 years’ experience covering Australian politics

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