GEORGE BROWNING.- How good are the fires?

Jan 7, 2020

The country clearly owes a debt of gratitude to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his government for their sterling leadership, their visionary approach in vastly changed and challenging circumstance and for their assurance that under their leadership all manner of things will be well.

There is no need for concern. How good are the fires!

Let me try to summarise the reasons why the nation should be grateful:

Thanks to the Prime Minster for coming back from his Hawaiian holiday. It is so reassuring to hear words of comfort like “Australians are resilient people, we have had bushfires before and will have them again, nothing to see here, this is all part of a normal cycle”.

Thanks too for linking the efforts of firies and a host of volunteers to the magnificent effort of the cricketers. The connection must be obvious for all to see.

Thanks for making sure that everyone is comforted whether they want comfort or not. Shaking hands or giving a hug to those who clearly do not wish to be touched might be considered assault from anyone else.

Thanks for the continuing assurance that while the government has always made the link with emission and climate change this is far too complex a crisis for any legitimate link to be made to the fires. Well, that is very reassuring. Of course fires are caused by lightning strikes and arsonists. Where I live on the coast it has refused to rain for months. Australia has been burning since the beginning of spring and where I live, we have been sucking in smoke every day for the last five weeks or more. Thanks so much for reassuring us that this is normal. I will probably fall off the perch before the long-term health implications affect me, so no need to worry here, let the younger generation look after themselves I say.

Thanks to minister Angus Taylor for complimenting Australia and Australians on how we are exceeding all expectations on emission reduction. It is so reassuring that he is minister for something that is clearly so important to him. The fact that we have recently done our best to sabotage a broader and more effective global alliance is clearly a misunderstanding and we should have every confidence that the minister who has a Rhodes scholarship reputation for fiddling facts on almost everything, is thoroughly trustworthy here.

Thanks for confirming what we feared, scientists, the reserve bank of Australia, fire chiefs, global consensus, the insurance industry, defence force chiefs, the business council of Australia, are all wrong. Climate change and global warming do not need to concern us, the little we might do will make no difference, so keep to present policy I say (in fact no policy at all), don’t worry about wiping out the tourist industry, or large sections of agriculture, or even Australia’s reputation internationally, all good here. (My overseas friends are saying international press are ridiculing our Prime Minister – how dare they).

Mr Morrison let me bring you up to speed with life where I live.   On New Year’s Eve fires swept through our community with even more devastating consequence than three weeks ago. At midday with no power and no telecommunication we needed a torch to get around the house. Many of our friends have lost their homes, whilst business after business has lost their livelihood. The devastation is beyond words and almost beyond belief. And now the community faces the same reality all over again tomorrow. We are of course but a small microcosm of the whole nation.

The team of volunteers at our local evacuation centre that my wife coordinates comprise those who have themselves lost their homes. They struggle to cope. With the roads impassable, others willing to help cannot get in. With deepest respect, some members of the government department overciting the centre are beyond their capacity level in these circumstances. Too often the fall-back position is to rely on rules which should guide principle but not override need. We serve people not rules. Rules are of no value if they get in the way of service. More often than not needs fall outside ‘rules’.   Meeting need is more important than rules.

One who has stood up as a leader is our local State member, Andrew Constance, he has had no smart words to offer, he has simply cried with his neighbours and is deeply respected.

Do I have hope, Yes, I have hope that young liberals, (who genuinely believe in and want to address the very serious situation we face), will oust the present crop of politicians and offer leadership which will restore respect and trust and take us down the path of new industry, technology and capacity. The time for fossils (human and mineral) is over. Those who occupy positions beyond their skill level should stand aside.


George Browning is a former Anglican Bishop of Canberra- Goulburn



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