The world has been appalled by the news coming out of Australia these past couple of months. Fires consuming homes, our poor wildlife, the Hurculean efforts of volunteer firefighters, and the utterly underwhelming response from our Prime Minister. There aren’t too many of you who wouldn’t be familiar with this now-iconic photograph, courtesy of the BBC:
But there’s a lot of ugly stuff going on which you don’t hear about. For instance, a not insignificant percentage of arsonists active in this state are current or former Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers. Some of the worst fires this summer resulted from poorly-managed backburns by the RFS. And a lot of the footage coming out of fire zones is from RFS personnel, who (surely) should be fighting the fire, not Instagramming it.
But I personally know a lot of RFS personnel, from their top brass down, and they are unswervingly dedicated to protecting life and property. Far more deserving of the title ‘hero’ than some numbskull who happens to be good at throwing a cricket ball. Especially when these heroes are dying out of nothing but pure altruism. So when we have a numbskull who discounts our state of emergency against ‘the backdrop’ of a no-contest cricket series, you just want to punch the smirk off our PM’s fat head.
Oh yes, there’s a lot of anger out there. But there’s also a lot of apathy, and a lot of inner-city whining about the Air Quality Index — which everyone now has installed alongside their ‘Fires Near Me’ app. Sydneysiders can now reassure ourselves that the Gospers Mountain megafire is still only affecting those who… ugh! live outside the CBD. Because ten million hectares incinerated, half a billion native animals killed, two thousand properties destroyed, and twenty five lives lost shouldn’t deflect us from doing what’s really important.
The NSW Premier, to her credit, has been staunch and resolute from the first day. No sneaky, off-radar tropical holidays for Gladys! She’s been on the front foot with her reassurances, but also with her reservations. How refreshing to hear a politician say what we all know to be true: this summer is so bad we haven’t even dreamt up a name for it yet. In all of recorded human history, there are few parallels. While nobody would be so crass as to boast about fires, if they did, we win.
Yet the climate denialists continue to deny, and our coal-loving PM is interrogating State bushfire planning to find his scapegoat, anything to deflect voters from his lack of leadership. We’ll know the crisis is over when the blame-game begins. We’ll know for sure when our attention is diverted from burned koalas begging for water to “those effing greenies who got us into this mess!” Dog-whistle politics, sure, but stupid people be stupid. Here in Oz, stupid people also sometimes be former supermodels.
But not everybody is stupid. Some people are wonderful. This woman who took off her shirt to save a burned koala, she’s wonderful. So is the comedian raising millions, and the Aussie celebrities leveraging their fame for good (just this once). When this is all over, we will look back on this hellish summer and demand change = I smell a new Government. ScoMo smells it too. But, despite the $2 billion aid package which he now conveniently plucks out of his ass, for ScoMo it’s too little, too late. Where the bloody hell were you, PM? Or as one battler succinctly put it, “You’re out son. You are out.”