While Australia Burns, Its Prime Minister Fiddled Away On Vacation
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison gets a lesson in governing the hard way.
It’s summer in Australia, temperatures are hitting record highs, fires are burning, resulting in the death of firefighters, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison finds himself in the middle of serious public blowback for taking a holiday vacation in the middle of a crisis:
Australia’s marketing expert Prime Minister has just had his first major product recall.
Scott Morrison’s brand has been damaged, as he wings his way back to Australia from Hawaii, a trifle shop-soiled and humiliated.
And all because Morrison and his office thought they could engineer silence on a family holiday.
As so often in politics, it’s the cover-up that gets you.
No-one begrudges the fellow going on holiday with his wife and lovely girls who have probably seen less of their dad this year than any in their short lives.
And he’s undoubtedly knackered from a hectic year in which he pulled off a miracle election win.
But it’s highly inadvisable to fudge on your whereabouts or when you’re going to return within radar.
This is not about preserving the PM’s privacy, the privacy of his young family or questions of their security.
Where he goes for a family holiday isn’t particularly important but confirming he’s clocked off, when he’s coming back on duty and who’s taken his place is important.
When it was briefed out on Monday that the PM was on holidays, it was explained he’d be on a “couple of quick days of leave”.
But as the PM revealed to 2GB on Friday morning, he texted Labor leader Anthony Albanese that day to inform him he’d be on a week’s holiday.
There was no official public note issued of his absence and when one Press Gallery journalist inquired with the Deputy Prime Minister’s office as to whether Michael McCormack was Acting PM, the journalist was referred back to the PM’s Office.
Of course, any Morrison family holiday was going to attract his critics, because the haters are going to hate, just as a holiday taken by Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd at a time of community difficulty would have been the subject of haranguing commentary by those in the conservative media.
But what started as a social media storm, whipped up by the predictable hashtag army, morphed into a question of leadership and judgment when the calamity of the bushfires mounted.
If Gladys Berejiklian’s declaration of a State of Emergency in NSW hadn’t already made Morrison sweat a little more in his Hawaiian shirt, the tragedy at Buxton made the continuation of his holiday untenable
The death of two volunteer firies, who themselves have young families, only served to further embarrass Morrison, despite the fact that the PM is as helpless as most of us are in the face of these terrible blazes.
“I don’t hold a hose, mate, and I don’t sit in a control room,” Morrison told 2GB radio host John Stanley from Hawaii.
“That’s the brave people who … are doing that job. But I know that Australians would want me back at this time … of these fatalities.
“So I’ll happily come back and do that.”
As with an American President, there’s no doubt that Prime Minister Morrison was being kept fully briefed on what was occurring back home with regard to fires that were already burning when he left town. And, of course, nobody is expecting the Prime Minister to be out there fighting the fires himself just as nobody expects an American President to be on sight during the height of a hurricane or during the immediate aftermath. That is what the experts that leaders delegate authority to are for. Nonetheless, being a leader means being there during a time of crisis even if it’s just as a figurehead showing up at news conferences. This is such elementary politics that it’s a wonder to see politicians who make mistakes like this. You’d think they’d know better at this point.
In any case, as I noted this occurs in the middle of what is being described as the worst fire season Australia in recorded history, In addition to the destruction the fires are causing, and of course the lives and property damage, the fires are having a nationwide impact, with cities like Sydney dealing with dangerous levels of smoke, This map gives a good indication of the extent of the blazes:
Given the fact that the majority of Australia’s population lives along the coasts, the fact that this is where the fires are is obviously of deep concern. Why Morrison thought it was a good idea to take a public holiday during all of this is a mystery.