Australian PM flies home to face wildfire outrage
Scott Morrison defends both his government’s climate change policies and his decision to go on holiday to Hawaii last week
Australia’s prime minister has apologised for causing “great anxiety” by going on holiday to Hawaii last week, despite a growing bushfire emergency that has provoked protests and widespread public outrage.
A record heatwave has fuelled wildfires across three states, destroying an area the size of Belgium and cloaking major cities from Brisbane and Sydney to Canberra and Melbourne in choking toxic fumes.
New South Wales is in the middle of a seven-day state of emergency as the fires continue to rage out of control.
After the deaths of two firefighters on Thursday, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision to take a family holiday to Hawaii has provoked “public outrage” says The Daily Telegraph.
News of his holiday prompted street protests and widespread criticism on social media, with Australians deploying the hashtag #WhereTheBloodyHellAreYa?
Amid claims his office tried to cover-up the trip, “just five days on from his leave being made public, the prime minister, who prides himself on his marketing prowess and spin, was forced into the extraordinary position of releasing a statement expressing deep ‘regret’ for ‘any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time’”, says The Guardian.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Morrison, who won a shock re-election earlier this year, said by going on holiday he was trying to keep a promise to his children, but accepted as prime minister “you have other responsibilities”.
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He also indicated the bushfire emergency would not prompt a change to the government’s emissions reduction policy, despite acknowledging some link between climate change and weather patterns that scientists say has fuelled the fire crisis.
The embattled prime minister said there were also “many other factors” responsible for the unprecedented number of fires during a record-breaking heatwave and he “did not accept the suggestion that Australia is not carrying its weight.”
The Sydney Morning Herald says Morrison’s remarks follow “sustained international criticism about Australia's reliance on carry-over credits to meet its commitment under the Paris climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 26 and 28% by 2030”.
Australia is one of the world’s largest carbon emitters per capita because of its reliance on coal-fired power plants.
“Although climate change is not the direct cause of bushfires, scientists have long warned that a hotter, drier climate would contribute to Australia’s fires becoming more frequent and intense” says the BBC.