The value of Leadership
After long months of bushfire catastrophe, PM Scott Morrison leadership (or lack thereof) is engulfed by harsh criticism. Amidst the national crisis, he decided not to postpone his vacations in Hawaii only to return after the death of two firefighters and the national outrage that followed and even after coming forward with a contrition attitude, the public opinion is unanimous about the government’s poor handling of the situation.
First of all, is was notorious the insufficient deployment of firefighting resources even when the ferocity of this bushfire season was predicted to surpass previous years. Back in April of 2019 a group of former firefighters and emergency leaders tried to organise a meeting with the Federal Government to warn the Prime Minister about increasing funding and capabilities to expected stronger and hotter bushfires. In an interview with ABC news, Former New South Wales Fire and Rescue chief Greg Mullins, voiced his disappointment about not having been listened and said that “measures could have been taken months ago to make the firefighters more effective and to make community safer.” The devastation of these fires is definitely a turning point for the Australian Government. Beyond the questioned direction of Morrison, whose public image is unlikely to recover for the rest of his term in power, the Country needs a new and larger coordinated firefighting system less dependant on State Rural services and their community organisations and more focused on a Federal Agency that can deploy better equiped professional firefighters and aircrafts to support local teams at any given moment in case of emergency.
The government has already failed at prevention and disaster control and it seems to be evaluating the situation with the morning newspaper, which makes up for a mix of condescending regret and short-sighted vision about necessary policy changes in tune with the challenges of climate change. Morrison has publicly expressed acknowledging global warming and yet he refuses to consider a significant shift in economic policies in relation to fossil fuels and renewable energy, while the Media is digging the archives to remind the public of that time when he brought a big piece of coal into Parliament and urged the other Representatives “not to be afraid” in open mockery of those genuinely concerned about environmental issues and carbon emissions.
Morrison’s disengagement has only lead him to a series of faux pas that have become viral on the internet and social media only to increase public indignation. He has assessed the irritation of those directly effected by the fires as a product of their suffering rather than a response to his lack of leadership, and he has been seen forcing handshakes with people that are openly criticising his conduct, while also declaring in interviews that “Australians have never been fussed about trying to impress people overseas or respond to what others tell us we should think or do”, regarding the government’s responsibility to curb carbon emissions, to what he responds that Australia is doing enough in contradiction to UN reports that called out Australia as one of the countries that are not on track cutting emissions according to the targets established in the Paris Agreement.
The federal government is failing to find connection between the ferocity of the bushfires and climate change and it’s showing a stubborn position by declaring not to consider any measures that would bring fragility to the Australian economy, highly dependant on mining and fossil fuels. Differences aside, the entire society has the enormous responsibility to open up and elevate the public debate around climate action and economic growth: to find collective solutions, exemplary models, innovation and solidarity. In these tragic moments of crisis, when the entire world is watching, one can only hope to find collective wisdom arising from the ashes.