Opinion by JOHN MOYLE
A week is a long time in politics and last week must have seemed an eternity for Prime Minister Scott Morrison. That is if Morrison has any ability to reflect at all on his actions that have seen him go from ScoMo the affable to Scummo the slippery.
Where the bloody hell is our PM?
In early October the northern rivers town of Rappville was virtually wiped out by fire, but for most of the eastern coast the emergency began in mid-December as the bushfires now covered much of seaboard from northern NSW to the outskirts of Melbourne.
Scott Morrison and his family took this opportunity to take a holiday, destination unknown.
No explanation was given for his absence and his office refused to issue the press any news on his whereabouts.
For once even the Murdoch press smelt something awry and it became “Where the bloody hell are you ScoMo?”
Eventually a news photographer found him sitting alone in a cafe in Hawaii.
Suddenly the tropical idyll turned into a “Blue Hawaii” nightmare as the media called for his return to take control of a looming emergency as extensive bushfire warnings and record heat-wave conditions were predicted.
Returning just one day earlier than originally planned, ScoMo cited family reasons for his break and said that the fires “still had a time to run yet”.
In the response to National’s leader Michael McCormack’s statement that “further action” was needed on climate change ScoMo, reasserted that his position on the subject was not changing and that he was not being intimidated from his climate change agenda.
On New Year’s Day at the traditional Kirribilli House meet and greet for the Australian and New Zealander cricketers, Morrison announced that the bushfires would be seen against the backdrop of the upcoming Test which would seize the nation’s attention.
By now even rusted-on ScoMo supporters were expressing disbelief at his refusal to acknowledge the enormity of the situation and the press began to examine his Pentacostalist beliefs and how their views of the Tribulations, where the world experiences hardships before the second coming of Christ, informed those of the prime minister.
Shaken, but stirred
Fast-forward to the fire-devastated small town of Cobargo on the NSW southern coast where Zoe Salucci McDermot, who had lost everything, refused to shake Morrison’s hand after he failed to listen to her plight.
Suddenly Scotty from Marketing took over and Morrison seized her hand and shook it for a photo opportunity being coordinated by a former Liberal mayor of the shire.
In an instance Morrison went from ScoMo to Scummo.
But Morrison’s lack of action goes back even further than the current fire situation.
In April 2019 former NSW Fire and Rescue chief Greg Mullins, along with twenty two former fire chiefs from across the country, attempted to meet with Morrison to discuss what they saw as an upcoming emergency, which included asking for an increase in the budget for fire-fighting aircraft.
The meeting did not happen and the group were eventually fobbed off onto Angus Taylor, the hapless energy and emissions reduction minister, who had no sway over a decision to increase the fire-fighting budget.
Scummo dismissed the delegation saying “I listen to fire chiefs that are in their jobs now.”
Morrison did not say whether the fact that Greg Mullins is also a founder of Emergency Leaders for Climate Change was a factor in his refusal to meet with the group.
By now questions were being asked about why the Australian Defence Force was not being involved for evacuation and logistics which Scummo said were state issues and not in his domain.
We now saw the southern coast of NSW devastated with the loss of lives and no end in sight as towns lost power, communications and began to run out of food and water.
As it got hotter and conditions worsened, a 200 kilometre traffic jam formed as a result of residents and holiday makers fleeing what was certain destruction and possible death.
Suddenly all hell broke loose in the Victorian town of Mallacoota as four thousand people crowded onto the local foreshore with flames advancing around them.
At last Morrison moved to bring in the Navy and 3,000 ADF reservists to undertake the largest humanitarian movement of people in Australia since Cyclone Tracy in 1974.
Immediately ads flooded free-to-air television showing the ADF charging into action, a breach of protocol over the use of the military for publicity purposes.
Just as it seemed that it couldn’t get worse it was discovered that the Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds, had been tweeting about the Mallacoota evacuation from the safety of her holiday house in Bali.
Reynolds’ claimed that she was “not on leave” while a secret alternative Defence Minister was installed without the public’s knowledge.
Still Scummo’s eyes were off the ball as he failed to inform two state fire services that this deployment was underway.
Slippery under threat
In recent days Morrison has been all over the news with what are now carefully stage managed meet and greets and a raft of statements obfuscating his inactions.
It was no longer Scotty from Marketing or Scomo the affable but Scummo the slippery.
Last week respected conservative commentator Peter Onselen revealed that senior government figures had been ‘backgrounding’ against the NSW Liberal government to ensure that blame was deflected from Scummo.
The worry for all Australians is that this is not the end of the fires or even the fire season.
Much of the most productive part of the country is already burned to a cinder, we have lost an enormous amount of native and plantation forests, local economies are in ruin, wildlife will take decades to recover, the drought continues and we have to put our futures into the hands of someone who has been found wanting at every turn.